State Department says meeting with senior Taliban leaders was 'candid and professional'

State Department says meeting with senior Taliban leaders was 'candid and professional'

October 11, 2021

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The State Department said Sunday that meetings it held with the Taliban over the weekend were “candid and professional,” as the United States continues to deal with the consequences of its chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

State Department Spokesman Ned Price issued a readout on the meetings in Doha, Qatar, with “senior Taliban representatives.” The statement said that the “U.S. delegation focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals and our Afghan partners, as well as on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society.”

“The two sides also discussed the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people,” Price added. “The discussions were candid and professional with the U.S. delegation reiterating that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words.”

This is not the first time the Biden administration used similar language to describe the Taliban since the U.S. was forced to abandon its embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. National Security Council Spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement last month that the Taliban was being “cooperative” in allowing Americans to depart Afghanistan. She added that they “have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort.” 

Taliban soldiers walk towards Afghans shouting slogans, during an anti-Pakistan demonstration, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)
(AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended that description of the Taliban in September. 

“We are here to celebrate the return of American citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan… In order to get those people out, we had to work with some members of the Taliban to press them and to work in a businesslike manner to get them out,” Psaki said. 

The Biden administration has been issuing statements calling on the Taliban to treat women with dignity, not oppress the Afghan people, and to squash terrorism. But the Taliban is nevertheless excluding women from equal education, going “house to house” to kill people who worked with the U.S., and says it will refuse to work with the United States to fight ISIS.

President Biden has adamantly defended his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and his handling of the situation. He argues that there is no way pulling out of the country could have gone well and said none of his advisers told him to leave troops in the country. 

US State Department spokesman Ned Price holds a press briefing on Afghanistan at the State Department in Washington, DC, August 16, 2021. Price called U.S. talks with the Taliban "candid and professional" in a Sunday statement. (Photo by KEVIN LAMARQUE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by KEVIN LAMARQUE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The president’s top military commanders contradicted that claim in a hearing late last month in which they said they advised him to leave 2,500 American troops in Afghanistan. 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley also said – in comments not exactly congruent with the Taliban allegedly showing “professional” behavior –  that “[t]he Taliban was and remain a terrorist organization and they still have not broken ties with al Qaeda.”

There are likely to be several more hearings in the coming months about the handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, putting Biden’s White House, the State Department, the military and intelligence community under the microscope. 

Fox News’ Brooke Singman, Jennifer Griffin, Jacqui Heinrich, Michael Ruiz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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