KABUL/WASHINGTON: The United States abruptly cancelled meetings with the Taliban in Doha that were set to address key economic issues, officials said on Friday, after Afghanistan’s Islamist rulers reversed a decision to allow all girls to return to high school classes.
The cancellation of talks was the first concrete sign that the Taliban’s recent moves on human rights and inclusivity could directly impact the international community’s willingness to help the group, some of whose leaders are under U.S. sanctions.
“Their decision was a deeply disappointing and inexplicable reversal of commitments to the Afghan people, first and foremost, and also to the international community,” a US State Department spokesperson told Reuters.
“We have cancelled some of our engagements, including planned meetings in Doha, and made clear that we see this decision as a potential turning point in our engagement.
“Three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the series of meeting between U.S. and Taliban administration officials were set to take place on the sidelines of a summit in Qatar’s capital on Saturday and Sunday.
Some of the meetings were to have included United Nations and World Bank representatives, the sources added.
An Afghan foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that a Taliban delegation, including the acting foreign minister, had been expecting to go to Doha.
The talks were designed to cover issues including the independence of the Afghan central bank and the printing of Afghani currency bank notes.
Also up for discussion were a humanitarian exchange facility to free up cash and hundreds of millions of dollars of funding currently held in a World Bank Trust Fund that is earmarked for Afghanistan’s education sector, according to the three sources.
They declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak with the media.
“The Qatari jet that was meant to collect Muttaqi’s delegation in Kabul has not turned up,” said a diplomatic source, referring to Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi.
Qatar’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.