9 October 2021 — Moon of Alabama
Just six weeks after leaving Afghanistan the U.S. wants to get back in:
A U.S. delegation will meet with senior Taliban representatives in Doha on Saturday and Sunday in their first face-to-face meeting at a senior level since Washington pulled its troops from Afghanistan and the hardline group took over the country, two senior administration officials told Reuters.
The high-level U.S. delegation will include officials from the State Department, USAID and the U.S. intelligence community, will press the Taliban to ensure continued safe passage for U.S. citizens and others out of Afghanistan and to release kidnapped U.S. citizen Mark Frerichs, the officials said.
That U.S. intelligence officials take part points to an effort to get an agreement on a long term and significantly sized CIA presence in the country. Such a station would target China and to a lesser degree Russia. The Taliban had previously rejected such a request (or at least had put some strong conditions on it which the U.S. did not fulfill.)
For a normal CIA presence in Afghanistan the U.S. could of course simply reopen its embassy as the Taliban had asked it to do. But that is something the Biden administration does not want to do as it would give the Taliban international legitimacy:
“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,” the official said.
The Taliban want the U.S. to release the frozen reserves of the Afghan central bank. They need money to feed their country. There also seem to be some open points with regards to the previous agreement which included secret annexes:
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who is based in Doha, told the Associated Press on Saturday that the talks will also revisit the peace agreement the Taliban signed with Washington in 2020. The agreement had paved the way for the final U..S. withdrawal.
“Yes there is a meeting … about bilateral relations and implementation of the Doha agreement,” said Shaheen. “It covers various topics.”
The U.S.-Taliban agreement of 2020, which was negotiated by the Trump administration, demanded the Taliban break ties with terrorist groups and guarantee Afghanistan would not again harbor terrorists who could attack the United States and its allies.
It seems certain the two sides will discuss in the weekend talks how to tackle the growing [Islamic State] threat. The Taliban has said it does not want U.S. anti-terrorism assistance and have warned Washington against any so-called “over-the -horizon” strikes on Afghan territory from outside the country’s borders.
The Taliban know who has founded and nurtured the Islamic State in Afghanistan. They suspect that the U.S. is still controlling it and that the recent Islamic State attacks in Afghanistan are just another form of U.S. pressure.
Yesterdays suicide bombing in a Shia mosque in Kunduz was executed by an Uyghur Islamic State member. Trump had taken the Uyghur Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) off the U.S. terrorist list and Biden has not reinstated it. This reinforce the impression that the U.S. is behind Islamic State attacks and that its real target is China:
The United States, meanwhile, would seek to hold Taliban leaders to commitments that they would allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, along with Afghans who once worked for the U.S. military or government and other Afghan allies, a U.S. official said.
The Taliban are not holding anyone back. It is the U.S. which is responsible for the travel difficulties:
U.S. officials have cited the difficulty of verifying flight manifests without any American officials on the ground in Afghanistan to help, along with other holdups.
To prepare for the meeting in Doha a U.S. delegation held high level talks with Pakistan:
The meeting between Washington’s deputy secretary of state and Pakistan’s leaders came amid an array of unsettled issues. They include questions such as the level of future engagement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the ongoing evacuation of foreign nationals and Afghans who want to flee the country’s new Taliban rulers.
Another question on the agenda is who will provide funds to stave off a full economic meltdown and looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban takeover, billions of dollars in aid have been frozen. Nearly 80% of the former Afghan government’s budget was funded by international donors.
Even as it shies away from any unilateral formal recognition, Pakistan has been pressing for greater engagement with the all-male, all-Taliban Cabinet that the insurgents set up after they overran Afghanistan in mid-August, in the final weeks of the U.S. and NATO pullout from the country.
Pakistan has also urged Washington to release billions of dollars to the Taliban so that they can pay salaries of the many Afghan ministries and avoid an economic meltdown. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that s such a crash could unleash a mass migration.
As a result of the talks Pakistan showed support for the U.S. demand of an ‘inclusive government’ in Afghanistan:
Little information has emerged from the meetings. A statement from Pakistan’s foreign ministry said “an inclusive and broad-based political structure reflecting the ethnic diversity of Afghan society was essential for Afghanistan’s stability and progress.”
That was a clear message to the Taliban: An acceptable Afghan government is one that includes representatives of all Afghan minorities.
The statement also had a message for the world, saying “the current situation required positive engagement of the international community, urgent provision of humanitarian assistance, release of Afghan financial resources, and measures to help build a sustainable economy to alleviate the sufferings of the Afghan people.”
I do not see the U.S. getting what it wants from the Taliban. They know that a large CIA station in their country would also endanger their rule.
If the U.S. continues to hold back Afghanistan’s money it only increases the need for the Taliban to engage with China. While China will be stingy and have its own requests it at least does not work with terrorist and it sticks to its agreements.