Washington defends talks with Taliban as serving American national interests

Conversations with Taliban allow US not only to protect its interests but also support Afghan people, State Department official says

Arpan Rai
Thursday 02 May 2024 11:50 BST
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The US engages with the Taliban when it serves its national interest, a State Department official said as Afghanistan’s de facto rulers continue to seek legitimacy from the international community.

Active conversations with the Taliban allow the US not only to protect its interests but also support the Afghan people living under the fundamentalist regime, State Department’s principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said.

“...let me just say that when it comes to our engagements with the Taliban, we engage when it is in the United States’ interest to do so. This is the best way to not just protect US national interests but also support the Afghan people,” he said.

Washington’s engagement “allows us to speak directly with the Taliban, and it’s an opportunity for us to continue to press for the immediate and unconditional release of US nationals in Afghanistan, including those who we have determined to be wrongfully detained”, Mr Patel said.

He was answering a question from a reporter on America’s engagement with Kabul despite rising terrorism in Afghanistan and the continuing ban on education of girls and women.

“We’ll also use those opportunities to directly talk about the Taliban’s commitments to counterterrorism, and of course, as always, human rights is also on the agenda,” Mr Patel told reporters.

The Taliban are pariahs on the global stage, largely because of their restrictions on women and girls. The war-hit nation’s economy is struggling and its infrastructure is poor in the absence of a functional government.

The group seized power in 2021 amid the chaotic withdrawal of US and Nato forces after two decades of war. Their ban on education of women and girls has triggered widespread condemnation and deepened their international isolation.

The Taliban have barred women from education beyond sixth grade, most jobs and public spaces like parks. They have implemented corporal punishment and public executions, practices seen during their first period of rule in the late 1990s. The economy is now in decline and Afghans are experiencing drought, hunger, and displacement on a massive scale.

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