Senior U.S. government officials this weekend held their first face-to-face meeting with representatives of the Afghan Taliban fundamentalist movement since al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in late July in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in a targeted U.S. attack, sources close to the meeting told CNN.
Al Zawahiri’s death further cooled relations between the United States and the Taliban, the latter under sanction since completing their recapture of the country by force in August last year.
The meeting, according to CNN sources, was attended by CIA Deputy Director David Cohen and the State Department’s top representative on Afghanistan, Tom West. The meeting took place in Doha, the capital of Qatar and the headquarters of the Taliban’s international political delegation, whose delegation included its intelligence chief, Abdul Haq Wasiq.
Since al-Zawahiri’s death, the US has negotiated with the Taliban for the release of US citizen Mark Frerichs — freed three weeks ago after two years in captivity — but until now no face-to-face meeting had taken place.
The Taliban are demanding that the US immediately unfreeze billions of euros in overseas funds given the country’s critical economic situation. In return, Washington and its Western allies are asking the fundamentalists to prevent the presence of terrorist organizations in the country and to hold a democratic process with room for minorities and vulnerable people.