Pakistan ‘welcomes’ second round of US-Taliban talks in Doha

A senior officer alleges that he was removed on the direction of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The foreign ministry reiterates the country’s position that the world community needs to engage with the Taliban government.

Pakistan has “welcomed” a second round of talks between the United States and the Taliban since the latter’s takeover of Afghanistan earlier this year, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) spokesperson says.

Addressing a weekly press briefing in capital Islamabad on Thursday, MoFA spokesman Asim Iftikhar reiterated his country’s position that the world community needs to engage with the Taliban’s government.

“[The US-Taliban talks] would be welcome development, as we have been saying, encouraging and advocating enhanced engagement of the international community with Afghanistan in order to help address its challenges,” said Iftikhar.

US Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Tom West will arrive in the Qatari capital Doha for two days of talks with Taliban officials next week, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday.

Price said the agenda for talks would be the US’s “vital national interest” in Afghanistan, which “includes counterterrorism, that includes safe passage for US citizens and for Afghans to whom we have a special commitment, and that includes humanitarian assistance and the economic situation of the country”.

On Thursday, the Afghan foreign ministry confirmed that a delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi had left for Doha for the talks.

“A senior delegation led by Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi left for Doha this afternoon,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi.

“The delegation consists representatives from Ministries of Education, Health, Finance, Security, and Da Afghanistan Bank [the Afghan central bank].”

International assistance

The Taliban’s interim government has repeatedly called for international assistance to help combat a burgeoning humanitarian crisis after its takeover of the country in mid-August.

The US froze $9.5bn in Afghan central bank assets following the takeover, crippling the government’s ability to function in many areas.

Afghan news organisation Tolo News quoted Balkhi as saying the issue of frozen Afghan assets and the reopening of foreign embassies in Kabul would be under discussion during the talks.

Next week’s talks will be the second round of direct talks between the two sides in Qatar following the Taliban’s takeover, with a previous round held in October, although West had not officially taken over as the US special representative for the region at that time.

West replaced Zalmay Khalilzad in the role, and most recently met with Muttaqi and other Taliban representatives on the sidelines of an extended troika meeting, which also included Chinese and Russian officials, in Islamabad on November 11.

Pakistan has urged international community not to ‘abandon‘ Afghanistan following Taliban’s return to power in August. Islamabad, which hosts nearly 3.5 million Afghan refugees, fears that a humanitarian crisis will have a spillover effect on it.

Earlier this week, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan announced more than $28m medical, food and other humanitarian assistance for its western neighbour.