ISLAMABAD – The Taliban on Saturday rejected cooperation with the United States to stop extremist groups in Afghanistan, a firm stand on a key issue ahead of the first direct talks between the former foes since the US withdrew from the country in August. Took stance.
Senior Taliban officials and US representatives are to meet on Saturday and Sunday in Qatar’s capital, Doha. Officials on both sides have said the issues include reining in extremist groups and evacuating foreign nationals and Afghans from the country. The Taliban have indicated flexibility on the evacuation.
However, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the Associated Press that there would be no cooperation with Washington to stop the increasingly active ISIS group in Afghanistan. ISIS has claimed responsibility for several recent attacks, including a suicide bombing on Friday that killed 46 minority Shia Muslims and injured dozens while offering prayers at a mosque in the northern city of Kunduz .
Asked if the Taliban would work with the US to become affiliated with the Islamic State, Shaheen said, “We are capable of dealing with Daesh independently.” He used an Arabic abbreviation for ISIS.
ISIS has launched frequent attacks on the country’s Shiites since its emergence in eastern Afghanistan in 2014. It is also seen as a terrorist group that is the biggest threat to the United States for its ability to strike American targets.
The weekend meeting in Doha is the first since US forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence as the Taliban took over the country. The US has made it clear that the talks are not a prelude to recognition.
The talks come after two days of difficult discussions between Pakistani officials in Islamabad and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, which focused on Afghanistan. Pakistani officials urged the United States to release billions of dollars of international funds to engage with Afghanistan’s new rulers and avoid an economic downturn.
Pakistan also had a message for the Taliban, urging them to become more inclusive and pay attention to human rights and minority ethnic and religious groups.
Afghanistan’s Shia clerics attacked Taliban rulers after Friday’s attack, demanding more security at their places of worship. An ISIS ally claimed responsibility and identified the attacker as a Uighur Muslim. The claim said the attack targeted both Shias and the Taliban because of their alleged desire to expel Uighurs to satisfy China’s demands. It was the deadliest attack since US and NATO troops left Afghanistan on August 30.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the US-based Wilson Center, said Friday’s attack could be a harbinger of more violence. Most of the Uyghur militants belong to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has for decades found a safe haven in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“If (ISIS) claims are true, China’s concerns about terrorism in (Afghanistan) (to which the Taliban claims to be receptive) will increase,” he tweeted after the attack.
Meanwhile, the Taliban began driving Afghans fleeing insurgent attacks in August and back to their homes in the country’s north, living in tents in Kabul Park, where ISIS threats are rising after the Kunduz attack.
Mohammad Arsa Kharoti, a Taliban official in charge of refugees, said there are 1.3 million Afghans displaced by past wars and that the Taliban lack the funds to make arrangements for homecoming for all. He said the Taliban have so far made arrangements for the return of 1,005 displaced families to their homes.
Shokaria Khanum, who spent several weeks in a tent in the park and waited on Saturday to leave for Kunduz in a bus organized by the Taliban, said he was not worried about the growing ISIS threat in the northern province.
“At least we have four walls,” she said, but added that she was nervous about the future after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government troops destroyed their home.
“It’s winter. There’s no firewood. We need water and food,” she said.
A US official said that during the Doha talks, US officials will also try to uphold their commitment to the Taliban to allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, as well as Afghans who have never been in contact with the US military or government and other Afghan allies. used to work for The official spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak on record about the meetings.
The Biden administration has filed questions and complaints about the slow pace of the US smooth evacuation from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan since the US withdrawal.
Associated Press writers Ellen Nickmeyer in Washington and Samya Kullab in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.