Taliban delegation arrives for a meeting in Doha, Qatar. File/AFP
The United States and the Taliban will hold their first in-person talks since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan starting on Saturday about containing extremist groups in Afghanistan and easing the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country, officials from both sides said.
The State Department said the US delegation will meet in the Qatari capital Doha with senior Taliban representatives.
"We will press the Taliban to respect the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, and to form an inclusive government with broad support," the spokesperson said on Friday.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (right) and Zalmay Khalilzad shake hands after signing an agreement in Doha. File/Reuters
"As Afghanistan faces the prospect of a severe economic contraction and possible humanitarian crisis, we will also press the Taliban to allow humanitarian agencies free access to areas of need," he said.
The US-Taliban agreement of 2020, which was negotiated by the Trump administration, demanded the Taliban break ties with terrorist groups and guarantee Afghanistan would not again harbor terrorists who could attack the United States and its allies.
It seems certain the two sides will discuss in the weekend talks how to tackle the growing threat. The Taliban have said they do not want US anti-terrorism assistance and have warned Washington against any so-called "over-the -horizon” strikes on Afghan territory from outside the country's borders.
A suicide bomb attack in the Afghan city of Kunduz has killed at least 55 people on Friday. AFP
Terrorism will also feature in the talks, said a second official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Earlier, a suicide bomb attack on worshippers at a Shiite mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz has killed at least 55 people in the bloodiest assault since US forces left the country in August.
Daesh has carried out relentless assaults on the country’s Shiite Muslims since emerging in eastern Afghanistan in 2014.
Taliban and US negotiators are scrambling to finalize a draft agreement that will outline the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan and a verifiable Taliban guarantee to fight
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