By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — United States officials will hold rare direct talks with representatives of the Afghan Taliban in Doha to discuss economic issues, security, and women’s rights, the U.S. State Department said.
Thomas West, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, and Rina Amiri, the U.S. special envoy for Afghan women, girls, and human rights will meet a Taliban delegation led by the militant group’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, in a two-day meeting that is expected to begin on July 30.
“Priority issues will include humanitarian support for the people of Afghanistan, economic stabilization, fair and dignified treatment of all Afghans, including women and girls, security issues, and efforts to counter narcotics production and trafficking,” the State Department said in a statement earlier this week.
Suhail Shaheen, the designated Taliban representative to the United Nations, who is based in Doha, told RFE/RL that the issue of Afghanistan central bank funds frozen in the United States will also be on the agenda of the meeting.
The funds were frozen in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in August 2021, after the hard-line Taliban group returned to power in Afghanistan as the last foreign forces withdrew following two decades of war.
No country has officially recognized the Taliban-led government, which has been widely criticized for human rights abuses, severe restrictions of women’s rights, and discrimination of ethnic minorities.
Ahead of the talks in Doha, the State Department pointed out that the upcoming meeting “does not indicate any change in the policy of the United States.”
The meeting doesn’t mean “any kind of indication of recognition or any kind of indication of normalization or legitimacy of the Taliban,” a deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said.
Patel reiterated Washington’s concerns about the Taliban’s marginalization of women and girls, and other human rights abuses.
The Taliban-led government has banned women from attending universities, and prohibited girls from getting education beyond primary schools. Women have also been excluded from many workplaces.
In December, it banned women from working for nongovernmental organizations, including international aid agencies.
Most recently, the Taliban ordered the closure of beauty salons in a move that will lead to the loss of an estimated 60,000 jobs.
West and Amiri will arrive in Doha from Kazakhstan after meeting officials from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to discuss Afghanistan and other regional issues.