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US Officials Hold Their First In-person Meeting With Taliban Leaders Since US Killed Al Qaeda's Head In July

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US officials hold their first in-person meeting with Taliban on Saturday since al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by the US in his Kabul residence in late July, according to two individuals familiar with the conversations.

The administration sent the CIA's deputy director and the senior State Department official in charge of Afghanistan to Doha for discussions with the Taliban team, which included the Taliban's chief of intelligence, Abdul Haq Wasiq.

US And Taliban Relations After Zawahiri's Killing

U.S. officials said that the Taliban's decision to keep protecting Zawahiri after he was killed in a strike was a "clear and blatant violation" of the Doha agreement. The Trump administration had negotiated the agreement, which said that in exchange for the U.S. leaving Afghanistan, the Taliban would not give safe haven to terrorists.

After a US drone fired Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri, U.S. officials blamed Haqqani network Taliban commanders for his death, but the Taliban strongly opposed the operation.

COPYRIGHT_WI: Published on https://washingtonindependent.com/ebv/us-officials-hold-their-first-in-person-meeting-with-taliban/ by Landon Morton on 2022-10-10T05:34:41.539Z

Since then, the United States has maintained dialogue with the Taliban, including efforts to secure Mark Frerichs' release. However, top-level leaders have not had a face-to-face meeting since just before Zawahiri's death on July 31.

Saturday's meeting between CIA Deputy Director David Cohen and Taliban representative Wasiq suggests a focus on counterterrorism efforts. Last month, the White House described efforts to collaborate with the Taliban to fight terrorism as "a work in progress."

Often leading interaction with the Taliban after the US exit last year, State Department Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West was also there with Cohen.

After being held for almost two years, Frerichs was freed with the assistance of Qatar approximately three weeks ago. Administration officials said they spent months trying to negotiate Frerichs's release with the Taliban and had told the Taliban not to kill him following the attack. They said they convinced the Taliban that releasing him would be the best way to restore confidence.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least one other American, a filmmaker named Ivor Shearer, is now being imprisoned by the Taliban after being captured alongside his Afghan producer, Faizullah Faizbakhsh, while shooting in the region where Zawahiri was slain. Before he was locked up, it seems that the Taliban had called Shearer in many times to question him.

Top US officials hold meet with Taliban, counter-terrorism was the focus | Latest News | WION

Ups And Downs In US-Taliban Relations

Though they still have connections to al Qaeda, the Taliban are under attack from ISIS-K, an affiliate of the Islamic State. The Hazara are an ethnic minority in Afghanistan who have been a frequent target of the group's violence. Last week, a suicide bomber struck a school in a mostly Hazara area of Kabul, killing at least 25 people, most of them young women. Not a single person stepped up to take the blame.

According to Beth Sanner, a former Deputy Director of National Intelligence who oversaw CIA research in Afghanistan, the Taliban are trying to prevent ISIS-K strikes, making them seem incompetent, especially in Kabul." Sanner also works for CNN as a contributor.

To foster economic stability in Afghanistan, the Biden administration revealed last month that it had established a $3.5 billion "Afghan Fund" using funds that had been frozen in the country. Two officials told CNN the funds have not been provided because the United States does not have faith that they would be used for the benefit of the Afghan people.

It will instead be managed by a third party, one that is apart from both the Taliban and the country's national bank. In their discussions with the Taliban, administration officials have also often brought up the situation of women and girls.

Last month, the United Nations rapporteur for human rights in Afghanistan described the decline of women and girls in Afghanistan as "staggering."

Final Words

After a US drone fired Hellfire missiles at Zawahiri, U.S. officials blamed Haqqani network Taliban commanders for his death, but the Taliban strongly opposed the operation.

Since then, the United States has maintained dialogue with the Taliban, including efforts to secure Mark Frerichs' release. However, top-level leaders hadn't had a face-to-face get-together since just before Zawahiri's death.

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About The Authors

Landon Morton

Landon Morton - Landon is a professional character coach, motivational speaker, and consultant who values commitment, service, and excellence. Landon brings to your company valuable insights gained from his battlefield experience as a decorated combat veteran, enabling you to unleash the untapped potential of your employees. He illustrates how the invaluable talent that each individual brings to your company will positively affect your mission through real-world examples.

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