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U.S. Envoy To Travel To Qatar Next Week For Talks With Taliban

U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West (file photo)

The U.S. State Department says its special envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West, will travel to the Qatari capital next week for two weeks of meetings with Taliban leaders.

The sides will discuss in Doha “our vital national interests when it comes to Afghanistan," department spokesperson Ned Price said on November 23.

"That includes counterterrorism, that includes safe passage for U.S. citizens and for Afghans to whom we have a special commitment, and that includes humanitarian assistance and the economic situation of the country.”

Earlier this month in Islamabad, West attended a so-called "troika plus" meeting on Afghanistan that also included Pakistani, Russian, and Chinese diplomats.

The group also met with senior Taliban representatives.

West was also part of the U.S. delegation in meetings with the Taliban in Doha in October -- the first such talks between the United States and the hard-line Islamist group after the chaotic end of the U.S.-led military presence in Afghanistan in late August following two decades of war.

The United States and its allies evacuated tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans ahead of their withdrawal, but thousands more people want to leave the country, with those who worked closely with Western militaries seen to be in particular danger from potential Taliban retaliation.

The abrupt withdrawal of most foreign aid and development support after the Taliban toppled the internationally backed government in Kabul on August 15 has sent the war-torn country’s economy into freefall. Reserves of the Afghan central bank held abroad were also frozen.

As a result, the United Nations says Afghanistan is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe, with more than half of its population at risk of not having enough to eat during the coming winter.

However, the world body announced on November 23 that its appeal for $600 million to support the humanitarian response in Afghanistan until the end of the year was now fully funded.

The main donors were the United States, European countries, and Japan.

The United States, which has vowed to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a “platform for international terrorism,” announced on November 22 that it had designated three leaders of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group’s affiliate in the country as global terrorists.

Another man has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for providing financial aid to the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-K) group, the State Department said in a statement.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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