US official: American, Taliban officials to talk on evacuees

Ellen Knickmeyer
Associated Press

Washington — U.S. officials will meet with senior Taliban officials on Saturday and Sunday for talks aimed at easing the evacuations of foreign citizens and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan, a U.S. official said Friday.

The focus of talks in Doha, Qatar, would be holding Afghanistan's Taliban leaders to commitments that they would allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, along with Afghans who once worked for the U.S. military or government and other Afghan allies, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak by name about the meetings.

The Biden administration has fielded questions and complaints about the slow pace of U.S.-facilitated evacuations from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan since the last U.S. forces and diplomats left there at the end of August.

Afghans watch as Taliban fighters ride atop a humvee after detaining four men who got involved in a street fight in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that 105 U.S. citizens and 95 green-card holders had left since then on flights facilitated by the U.S. That number had not changed for more than a week.

U.S. veterans and other individuals have helped others leave the country on charter flights, and some Americans and others have gotten out across land borders.

That leaves dozens of American citizens still seeking to get out, according to the State Department, along with thousands of green-card holders and Afghans and family members believed eligible for U.S. visas. U.S. officials have cited the difficulty of verifying flight manifests without any American officials on the ground in Afghanistan to help, along with other hold-ups.

Americans also intend to press the Taliban to observe the rights of women and girls, many of whom the Taliban are reportedly blocking from returning to jobs and classrooms, and of Afghans at large, and to form an inclusive government, the official said.

U.S. officials will also encourage Taliban officials to give humanitarian agencies free access to areas in need amid the economic upheaval following the U.S. departure and Taliban takeover.

The official stressed the session did not imply the U.S. was recognizing the Taliban as legitimate governors of the country.