Reuters exclusively reported that a U.S. delegation would meet with the Taliban in Doha over the weekend – the first face-to-face meeting at a senior level since Washington pulled its troops from Afghanistan and the hardline group took over the country in August. Reuters revealed that U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, a long-time interlocutor with the Taliban and key figure in peace talks with the group, would not be part of the delegation. Senior U.S. officials told Reuters that top priorities in talks would be securing continued safe passage for U.S. citizens and others out of Afghanistan and the release of a kidnapped U.S. citizen. Furthermore, the U.S. would hold the Taliban to its commitment to not allow Afghanistan to again become a hotbed for al Qaeda and other extremists and press the group for improved access for humanitarian aid. The meeting took place while the U.S. and other Western countries attempt to formulate how to engage with the Taliban without granting it the legitimacy it seeks to unlock badly needed funding.
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