American, Taliban officials to talk on evacuees: US official

America Taliban talks
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Afghans watch as Taliban fighters ride atop a humvee after detaining four men who got involved in a street fight in Kabul

US officials will meet with senior Taliban officials on Saturday and Sunday for talks aimed at easing the evacuations of foreign citizens and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan, a US official has said. The focus of talks in Doha, Qatar, would be holding Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders to commitments that they would allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, along with Afghans who once worked for the US military or government and other Afghan allies, the official said on Friday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorised to speak by name about the meetings.

The Biden administration has fielded questions and complaints about the slow pace of US-facilitated evacuations from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan since the last US forces and diplomats left there at the end of August.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday that 105 US citizens and 95 green-card holders had left since then on flights facilitated by the US. That number had not changed for more than a week.

US veterans and other individuals have helped others leave the country on charter flights, and some Americans and others have gotten out across land borders.

That leaves dozens of American citizens still seeking to get out, according to the State Department, along with thousands of green-card holders and Afghans and family members believed eligible for US visas. 

US officials have cited the difficulty of verifying flight manifests without any American officials on the ground in Afghanistan to help, along with other hold-ups.

Americans also intend to press the Taliban to observe the rights of women and girls, many of whom the Taliban are reportedly blocking from returning to jobs and classrooms, and of Afghans at large, and to form an inclusive government, the official said.

US officials will also encourage Taliban officials to give humanitarian agencies free access to areas in need amid the economic upheaval following the US departure and Taliban takeover.

The official stressed the session did not imply the US was recognising the Taliban as legitimate governors of the country.

(With inputs from AP)

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