State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday that “there has been progress on a number of fronts” following several days of meetings between US and Taliban officials in Doha.
“There were productive discussions on the issue of humanitarian assistance,” Price said at a press briefing, noting there was “a degree at least of consensus” about the desire for aid.
The Biden administration has said it will provide assistance directly to the people of Afghanistan amid mounting concerns about a potential humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan as the country’s medical system falters and its economy sits on the brink of collapse.
World leaders warned of the need for urgent action to avert such a collapse during a G20 meeting on Afghanistan Tuesday. The European Union announced an additional $800 million in emergency aid to help avert a “major humanitarian collapse” in that country.
“We’re committed to working closely with the international community and using diplomatic, humanitarian, and economic means to address the situation in Afghanistan and support the Afghan people,” US President Joe Biden tweeted following the meeting.
US officials participated in a series of engagements with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, including a joint meeting with European officials on Tuesday, Price said, and humanitarian assistance was a key topic of discussion in all of the meetings.
A senior US delegation, including Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Tom West, CIA Deputy Director David Cohen, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID)’s top humanitarian official Sarah Charles all traveled to Doha this weekend for the first such high-level meetings with the Taliban since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of August.
Price described the meetings as “candid,” and said that counterterrorism was a key component in the discussions and at Tuesday’s G20 meeting, saying that the US would “do what we need to do” to ensure that Afghanistan does not become “a launch pad for attacks against the United States.”
“That is our priority, we have the capabilities to do that,” he said without elaborating on those capabilities.
He said there was “some shared set of interest” in the matter, noting that “ISIS-K is a mutual threat to the Taliban and to the United States and our partners.”
Price described the meetings between US and Taliban officials over the weekend as “largely positive,” saying the US delegation made clear that the Taliban would be judged “solely on its actions.”
“We engaged on a practical and pragmatic basis … focusing on security and terrorism concerns, in some ways a shared threat from groups like ISIS-K in Afghanistan, safe passage for US citizens and foreign nationals and as well as our Afghan partners to whom we have a special commitment, and of course human rights,” Price said.
“We have made very clear on where we stand on the composition of this caretaker government,” he said.
The spokesperson said that the US wants “to see to it that six weeks from now, six months from now, when any future Afghan government is formally announced, that that government upholds the commitments that the Taliban has made,” but noted that “Taliban conduct a month ago, six weeks ago, is in some ways different from Taliban conduct today.”
Price said that some of the Taliban’s conduct is “inconsistent with what the Taliban itself has pledged.”
Since gaining control of the country, the Taliban have reimposed a protocol of punishment under the group’s strict interpretation of Sharia law.
CNN reported this week that although the militant group has sought to project a more moderate image than when they were previously in control of the country, vulnerable Afghans say brutal justice is still being meted out.
Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, one of the founders of the Taliban, said in an interview with the Associated Press last month that the use of amputations and executions as punishment would be reinstated.
“No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran,” he told the publication.
“Cutting off of hands is very necessary for security,” he added, telling the AP that the cabinet was studying whether to conduct the punishments publicly and will “develop a policy.”
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