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U.S. Sets First Face-To-Face Talks With Taliban Since Takeover

Previous talks with the Taliban have taken place in Doha. (file photo)

U.S. officials will hold their first face-to-face talks with Taliban representatives since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the hard-line Islamist group's takeover of the war-torn country in August.

The State Department on October 8 said the U.S. delegation will meet on October 9 and October 10 with senior Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, where U.S. officials met with Taliban negotiators in recent years in pursuit of a possible peace deal.

"We will press the Taliban to respect the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, and to form an inclusive government with broad support," a U.S. spokesman said.

"As Afghanistan faces the prospect of a severe economic contraction and possible humanitarian crisis, we will also press the Taliban to allow humanitarian agencies free access to areas of need," he said.

The meeting does not indicate that the United States is officially recognizing Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the State Department said.

"This meeting is not about granting recognition or conferring legitimacy. We remain clear that any legitimacy must be earned through the Taliban's own actions. They need to establish a sustained track record," a U.S. official said.

The U.S. delegation will include representatives from the State Department, USAID, and the U.S. intelligence community, officials said.

U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, who has for years led the U.S. negotiating process with the Taliban in Doha, will not be part of the delegation, Reuters quoted a U.S. official as saying.

They are expected to press the Taliban to ensure continued safe passage for U.S. citizens and others who wish to leave Afghanistan and to release kidnapped U.S. citizen Mark Frerichs.

The United States has acknowledged that it was unable to get out most Afghan allies who wanted to leave during an emergency airlift that extracted tens of thousands of people from Kabul in the final days of the U.S. military presence.

The United States and other Western countries are looking to formulate ways to help alleviate the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, as they seek to engage with the Taliban without granting it the immediate official recognition it craves.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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