Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (centre) meets with Sir Simon Gass at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. AP
A senior British envoy held talks with top Taliban officials in Kabul on Tuesday — the first since foreign forces evacuated from Afghanistan — as the country's new masters seek a path out of international isolation.
Afghanistan's Taliban leaders met with UK officials for the first time since taking power, a move the group hopes will pave the way for the country to refill cash-starved coffers as it teeters on the brink of economic collapse.
The Taliban declared a new regime after overrunning the capital in August and ousting the US-backed government.
But after 20 years of war the aid-reliant country faces economic collapse, with major donors pausing funding and no emergency support in place.
Sir Simon Gass (right) meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan. AP
The new rulers have been courting hesitant foreign powers in a bid to restart cash flows to the country, where civil servants and healthcare workers have gone months without salaries.
The Taliban's meeting with British diplomats in the capital Kabul came a day after they met with an Iranian delegation - another first since assuming the helm - to discuss trade relations, a key driver of Afghanistan's economy.
The Taliban met with Sir Simon Gass, the British prime minister’s high representative for Afghan transition, and Martin Longden, the chargé d’affaires of the U.K. mission to Afghanistan in Doha.
The meeting marked Britain's first diplomatic visit to the country since the Taliban seized Kabul on Aug. 15, and took control of Afghanistan following the U.S. exit.
The two sides discussed how Britain can help Afghanistan battle terrorism and a deepening humanitarian crisis -- and provide safe passage for those who want to leave the country, a UK government spokesperson said.
"They also raised the treatment of minorities and the rights of women and girls," the spokesperson added, adding that Gass was joined by Martin Longden, charge d'affaires at the now evacuated UK mission to Afghanistan.
The White House on Tuesday said 98 per cent of Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan were able to do so, and President Joe Biden affirmed that the United States remained committed to helping the remaining 100 to 200 US citizens who had some intention to leave.
In a major but symbolic victory, the Taliban on Friday appeared to have taken their first provincial capital — the city of Zaranj in southern Nimroz province. The government, however, claimed that the city had not fallen.
Discussions between Britain and the United States on building up their military presence in the Gulf are ongoing, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman, Alison Donnelly, said on Friday amid tensions with Iran.
During a recent interview held before a live audience, Putin said to a US journalist that ‘you are too beautiful and pretty to understand the issue about a stand-off with Europe over gas supplies.’
The ministry stressed in a statement that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
Rescue operations were underway on Sunday after heavy rain lashed the state the day before, triggering flash floods and landslides, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.