DOHA (Agencies): US and Taliban officials engaged in discussions focusing on key issues during talks in Qatar. The US State Department stated that Washington was open to technical talks concerning economic stability and combating narcotics trafficking. The Taliban raised concerns about travel restrictions on their leaders and the return of Afghan central bank assets held abroad.

Formal recognition of the Taliban’s government has not been granted by any country since the group returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021 following the withdrawal of US-led foreign forces after a 20-year conflict.

The US side expressed concerns about the “deteriorating” human rights situation in Afghanistan and urged the Taliban to reverse bans on girls’ secondary education, women’s employment, and the release of detained Americans.

On a positive note, the US acknowledged improvements in financial data, including reduced inflation and opium poppy cultivation due to a ban in 2022. The US expressed openness to continuing dialogue on counternarcotics efforts and technical discussions on economic stabilization issues.

Most Taliban leaders currently require permission from the United Nations to travel abroad, and Afghanistan’s banking sector has faced significant sanctions since the Taliban took control, styling themselves as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).

The IEA stressed the importance of lifting travel bans on Taliban leaders and unfreezing central bank reserves to build confidence and establish an economy less reliant on foreign aid, according to a statement from Afghanistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson.

Around $7 billion in Afghan central bank funds were frozen in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after the Taliban’s rise to power, with half of the funds now held in a Swiss-based Afghan Fund. However, a US-funded audit of the Afghan central bank did not receive Washington’s support for the return of assets from the trust fund.

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