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UN Official Pledges To Maintain Humanitarian Aid After Kabul Meeting, Taliban Says

Internally displaced boys play outside their temporary home in Kabul. (file photo)

The UN's humanitarian chief has promised to maintain assistance for the Afghan people after a meeting in Kabul with senior Taliban officials.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said Martin Griffiths, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, made the pledge after meeting Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's co-founder and political chief, and other officials on September 5.

Griffiths "promised continuation of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, saying he would call for further assistance to Afghanistan during the coming meeting of donor countries," Shaheen said on Twitter.

Shaheen also said the Taliban assured the UN delegation of "cooperation and provision of needed facilities."

Afghanistan faces a potential humanitarian crisis caused by the abrupt end of foreign aid following the collapse of the Western-backed government and the victory of the Taliban last month. A severe drought is also exacerbating conditions in the country.

The United Nations is expected to convene an international aid conference in Geneva on September 13 to help avert what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called a "looming humanitarian catastrophe."

Almost half of the population in Afghanistan -- about 18 million people -- needs support, according to the UN.

Griffiths is in Kabul for several days of meetings with Taliban leaders. He reiterated the humanitarian community's commitment to deliver "impartial and independent humanitarian assistance and protection to millions of people in need."

The UN diplomat also called on the Taliban to respect the rights of women and minorities.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said prior to Griffiths meetings with the Taliban that the group had pledged that the safety of humanitarian staff, and access to people in need "will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers -- both men and women -- will be guaranteed freedom of movement."

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is also in Afghanistan to assess the needs of the Afghan people.

Peter Maurer arrived on September 5 and plans to visit medical facilities, rehabilitation centers for victims of violence and disease, and ICRC staffers.

The relief group said in a statement that Maurer also plans to meet with local Afghan authorities to ensure that impartial and humanitarian action will form the basis of the ICRC's work.

"Afghans have suffered from 40 years of conflict and they now face years of work to heal and recover," Maurer said. "The International Committee of the Red Cross is dedicated to staying here to help that recovery."

The ICRC president also stressed that the future of Afghans relies on the continued "investment from the outside world."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and RFE/RL's Radio Azadi
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