Taliban say they won’t work with US to contain Islamic State

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ISLAMABAD (AP) – The Taliban on Saturday ruled out cooperation with the United States to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan, taking a hard-line stance on a key issue ahead of the first direct talks between the former enemies since the United States’ withdrawal from the country in August. .

Senior Taliban officials and US officials are due to meet on Saturday and Sunday in Qatar’s capital Doha. Officials on both sides said issues included the containment of extremist groups and the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country. The Taliban have shown flexibility in evacuations.

However, Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press that there would be no cooperation with Washington to contain the increasingly active Islamic State group in Afghanistan. IS has taken responsibility for a number of recent attacks, including a suicide bombing on Friday that killed 46 minority Shia Muslims and injured dozens while praying at a mosque in Kunduz town, north of the country.

“We are able to attack Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, when asked if the Taliban would work with the United States to contain the Islamic State affiliate. He used an Arabic acronym for IS.

IS has carried out relentless assaults on the country’s Shiites since its emergence in eastern Afghanistan in 2014. It is also considered the terrorist group that poses the greatest threat to the United States due to its potential for attacks against US targets.

The weekend’s meetings in Doha are the first since US forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence as the Taliban invaded the country. The United States has made it clear that the talks are not a preamble to recognition.

The talks also follow two days of difficult talks between Pakistani officials and US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Islamabad, which focused on Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have urged the United States to engage with the new Afghan leadership and release billions of dollars in international funds to prevent an economic collapse.

Pakistan also had a message for the Taliban, urging them to become more inclusive and to pay attention to human rights and minority ethnic and religious groups.

Afghan Shiite clerics attacked Taliban leaders after Friday’s attack, demanding greater protection in their places of worship. The SI affiliate claimed responsibility and identified the suicide bomber as a Uyghur Muslim. The statement said the attack was aimed at both the Shiites and the Taliban for their alleged desire to expel the Uyghurs to meet China’s demands. It is the deadliest attack since US and NATO troops left Afghanistan on August 30.

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, said Friday’s attack could be a harbinger of more violence. Most of the Uyghur activists belong to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has found safe haven in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan for decades.

“If (IS) ‘s claim is true, China’s concerns about terrorism in (Afghanistan) – to which the Taliban claim to be receptive – will increase,” he tweeted after the attack.

Meanwhile, the Taliban began to bus back Afghans who fled the insurgent blitz in August and were living in tents in a park in Kabul to return them to their homes in the north of the country, where threats ISIS escalates in the aftermath of the Kunduz attack.

Taliban refugee official Mohammed Arsa Kharoti said there were up to 1.3 million Afghans displaced by past wars and the Taliban lacked funds to organize the return of all. He said the Taliban have organized the return of 1,005 displaced families to their homes so far.

Shokria Khanm, who had spent several weeks in one of the park’s tents and was waiting for Saturday to board the Taliban-organized bus to return to her home in Kunduz, said she was not concerned about the growing threat. ISIS in the northern province.

“At least there we have four walls,” she said, but added that she was nervous for the future after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government troops destroyed her home.

“Winter is on the way. There is no firewood. We need food and water, ”she said.

During the Doha talks, US officials will also seek to force the Taliban to live up to their pledge to allow Americans and other foreign nationals to leave Afghanistan, as well as Afghans who previously worked for the military. or the US government and other Afghan allies, a US official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak officially about the meetings.

The Biden administration has responded to questions and complaints about the slow pace of US-facilitated evacuations from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan since the US withdrawal.

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Associated Press editors Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington and Samya Kullab in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.


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