US embassy in Kabul to stay closed as concerns grow over ISIS-K

Thomas West, new US special envoy to Afghanistan, says another US meeting with Taliban is in the works

The US embassy in Kabul will remain indefinitely closed as Washington monitors Taliban rule in Afghanistan and as ISIS continue to unleash deadly attacks, the new US special envoy to Afghanistan said on Monday.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West, who has replaced Zalmay Khalilzad, said any reopening of the sprawling embassy compound that was evacuated as the Taliban swept to power was not currently under consideration.

“When it comes to reopening our embassy in Kabul, I have to tell you candidly that we are not seriously thinking about taking that step,” Mr West told reporters.

“What we want to see is the establishment of a record of responsible conduct by the Taliban, [a record] of predictable conduct, and then we will assess what needs we have on the diplomatic front.”

Mr West said the rights of women and girls, including their access to education, were essential.

“We want to see steps taken to form an inclusive and representative government,” he said.

In October, Mr West and other officials took part in a two-day meeting with members of the Taliban leadership in Doha. He said US talks with the Taliban would continue.

“We are preparing for a next round of inter-agency engagement with the Taliban,” he said.

The US is growing increasingly concerned about the threat from ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

“We're worried about the uptick in ISIS-K attacks and we want the Taliban to be successful against them … Al Qaeda continues to have a presence in Afghanistan that we are very concerned about,” Mr West said.

ISIS-K have claimed responsibility for a string of deadly attacks across Afghanistan including Tuesday's hospital attack in Kabul.

The US envoy is currently in Brussels for talks with Nato allies on Afghanistan and will be travelling to India, Pakistan and Russia later in the week to continue those discussions.

“It's imperative that we work with the region, with Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and the Central Asian states, on our common and abiding interest in a stable Afghanistan,” he said.

The US will not be taking part, however, in a national security advisers meeting that India is hosting on Afghanistan.

Last month, Undersecretary of Defence for Policy Colin Kahl told Congress that the US is holding conversations with Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to keep airspace open for American counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.

“We are going to co-operate with the countries of the region when it comes to counterterrorism and that includes with the Pakistanis,” Mr West said.

Updated: November 8th 2021, 10:17 PM