US officials urge Taliban to reverse policies for women

Special representative for Afghanistan Thomas West held 'fruitful' meeting with Taliban officials in Doha

Taliban security officers check motorcyclists in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on July 30. EPA
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Taliban officials held a “fruitful” dialogue with the US in which Washington urged Afghanistan's rulers to reverse many of its policies towards women and children, the two sides said on Monday.

It took place in Qatar where US special representative Thomas West and special envoy for Afghan women, girls and human rights, Rina Amiri, met senior Taliban officials including from the central bank and Ministry of Finance.

“US officials urged the Taliban to reverse policies responsible for the deteriorating human rights situation in Afghanistan, particularly for women, girls and vulnerable communities,” the State Department said.

“The United States expressed support for the Afghan people’s demands for their rights to be respected and for their voices to shape the future of the country.”

Taliban political chief Suhail Shaheen said the meeting was productive and indicated that more talks would occur.

We “had fruitful discussions” over two days and “both sides emphasised the need to have such meetings in future as well", Mr Shaheen wrote on Twitter.

The Taliban stormed back to power in August 2021 during the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The US and its allies were in a grinding conflict with the Taliban since late 2001 in what was often referred to as America’s “forever war".

The militant group quickly reversed 20 years of US-aided progress across a wide range of social issues particularly pertaining to women and girls.

Since returning to power, the Taliban have barred women from attending university and girls have been barred from secondary education, in a massive blow to America's legacy in the country.

The State Department said the two sides also discussed the “state of the Afghan economy and the challenges that the banking sector faces".

Mr West described the meeting as "detailed" and "candid". He said on Twitter that dialogue "needs to continue, in support of the Afghan people and to protect interests”.

The Taliban have called on Washington to return $3.5 billion belonging to Afghanistan's central bank after a New York federal judge ruled the families of victims in the 9/11 attacks cannot seize the funds.

The money had been held to compensate victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks that were planned by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan while the Taliban were in power.

The country’s economy is expected to contract in 2023 after a 30 per cent drop in foreign aid.

Washington said it would be open “to a technical dialogue regarding economic stabilisation issues” in the future.

Updated: July 31, 2023, 9:42 PM