The Taliban renewed its call for the United States to release billions of dollars in frozen funds after two days of talks in Doha as aid-dependent Afghanistan grapples with the economic crisis.
The Afghans also called for an end to blacklists and sanctions in meetings led by Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Tom West, the US special representative for Afghanistan.
It was the second round of talks between the two sides in Qatar since the US ended its 20-year occupation of Afghanistan and the hardline Islamists rapidly returned to power.
“The two delegations discussed political, economic, human, health, education and security issues as well as providing necessary banking and cash facilities,” tweeted Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi.
“The Afghan delegation assured the US side of security and urged that Afghanistan’s frozen money should be released unconditionally, blacklists and sanctions must end and human issues be separated from political ones.”
Read more: Taliban face dire challenges in reviving ailing Afghan economy
Biden administration officials covered a wide range of issues during two days of talks with Taliban representatives in Doha, including expressing their concern about the continued terrorist presence in the country and allegations of human rights abuses, per State spox. pic.twitter.com/rIB902Tn7Z
— Kylie Atwood (@kylieatwood) November 30, 2021
Washington seized nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank also suspended activities in Afghanistan, withholding aid as well as $340 million in new reserves issued by the IMF in August.
The Afghan economy has effectively collapsed, with civil servants unpaid for months and the treasury unable to pay for imports. The United Nations has warned that around 22 million people, more than half the population, will face an “acute” food shortage in the winter months.
Read more: $600 million to avert Afghanistan humanitarian crisis: UN
US concerned about welfare of ordinary Afghans
Taliban government leader Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund is among those targeted by the US sanctions. The US side stood firm on the measures and said it was taking steps to get support to ordinary Afghans.
“The United States remains committed to ensuring that US sanctions do not limit the ability of Afghan civilians to receive humanitarian support from the US government and international community while denying assets to sanctioned entities and individuals,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“The Department of the Treasury has issued general licenses to support the continued flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and other activities that support basic human needs.”
The US also urged the Taliban to provide access to education for women and girls across the country and “expressed deep concern regarding allegations of human rights abuses”.
Read more: Freezing Afghan assets worsening humanitarian crisis: Deborah Lyons
It reminded the Taliban of its commitment not to allow terrorist organizations to operate on its soil and to guarantee safe passage for US citizens from Afghanistan.
The Americans also called for the release of US citizen Mark Frerichs, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan in February last year.
@US4AfghanPeace said in a tweet that after two days of talks with #Taliban reps in #Doha, "enduring interests, terrorism, safe passage, rights of all Afghans & the safe return of Mark Frerichs" were discussed.
He also emphasized on urgent respond to humanitarian crisis. pic.twitter.com/6vxOxe7f0p
— Reporterly (@Reporterlyaf) December 1, 2021
The Taliban called the talks “positive” and said Muttaqi also met with the Japanese and German ambassadors to Afghanistan in Doha.