The Biden administration said on Sunday its first face-to-face meeting with Taliban officials since the brutal extremists reconquered Afghanistan was “candid and professional.” Judging by their comments, the Taliban disregarded everything the Biden team said except its promise of humanitarian aid.
According to the U.S. State Department, the meeting in Qatar emphasized U.S. concerns about terrorism, safe passage out of Afghanistan for the U.S. citizens and others who remain trapped there, and human rights, “including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society.”
“The two sides also discussed the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“The discussions were candid and professional with the U.S. delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words,” Price added.
U.S. officials insisted the meeting was “not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy” on the Taliban regime.
The Taliban Foreign Ministry agreed the meeting was successful, but it dismissed the State Department’s remarks about human rights and insisted humanitarian aid should be delivered quickly and quietly by the rest of the world, without being “linked to political issues.”
“Detailed discussions were held during the meeting about all relevant issues. And efforts should be exerted to restore diplomatic relations to a better state,” the Taliban said.
The Taliban’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, Saturday demanded that Afghanistan’s financial assets in Western banks should be unfrozen and placed at the disposal of the Taliban regime.
“The need to establish good positive relations with each other on an equal basis is being emphasized in the discussions. We stressed the need for unfreezing of Afghan financial assets in the wake of difficult circumstances facing Afghanistan,” Muttaqi said.
“We clearly told [the Americans] that nobody benefits from an unstable Afghanistan, so no one should try to weaken the current government of Afghanistan or fuel problems for our Afghan people who already are struggling economically,” Muttaqi declared, hinting that America’s concerns about terrorism would held hostage to the Taliban’s demands for money.
Muttaqi continued that argument on Monday, suggesting the Taliban could make some improvement on human rights if the world community shows more respect for the regime, and lets more money flow into Afghanistan.
“The international community needs to start cooperating with us. With this we will be able to stop insecurity and at the same time with this we will be able to engage positively with the world,” he said.
The foreign minister complained that too much was expected of the underfunded Taliban government.
“[The previous government] had a lot of financial resources and they had a strong international backing and support but at the same time you are asking us to do all the reforms in two months?” he said.
In remarks to the Associated Press on Saturday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen rebuffed the Biden administration’s pleas for cooperation on terrorism.
“We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, using another name for the Islamic State.
The U.S. Federal Reserve, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) froze billions of dollars in Afghan assets when the Taliban seized Kabul and overthrew the elected government in August. The U.S. alone froze about $9.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets, much of it held by the New York Federal Reserve.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that the international community must find a way to get more cash into the hands of the Afghan people.
Guterres accused the Taliban of breaking its promises to improve on womens’ rights, and suggested the Afghan economy will never recover if women are barred from the workforce – but he also seemed willing to entertain the Taliban’s argument that humanitarian conditions will not improve while Afghanistan remains cut off from foreign money supplies.
“I urge the world to take action and inject liquidity into the Afghan economy to avoid collapse,” he said, suggesting humanitarian organizations might find ways to bypass the Taliban and put money in the hands of the Afghan people.