The Taliban on Saturday ruled out cooperation with the U.S. to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan, staking out an uncompromising position on a key issue ahead of the first direct talks between the former foes since America withdrew from the country in August.
Senior Taliban officials and U.S. representatives are meeting on Saturday and Sunday in Doha. Officials from both sides have said issues include reining in extremist groups and the evacuation of foreign citizens and Afghans from the country. The Taliban have signaled flexibility on evacuations.
Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen said there would be no cooperation with Washington on going after the increasingly active Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan. IS has taken responsibility for a number of attacks, including Friday’s suicide bombing at a mosque in Kunduz.
“We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, when asked whether the Taliban would work with the U.S. to contain the Islamic State affiliate. He used an Arabic acronym for IS.
The weekend meetings in Doha are the first since U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan in late August, ending a 20-year military presence, and the Taliban rose to power in the nation. The U.S. has made it clear the talks are not a preamble to recognition.
The talks also come on the heels of two days of difficult discussions between Pakistani officials and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Islamabad. The focus of those talks was also Afghanistan. Pakistani officials urged the U.S. to engage with the Taliban and release billions of dollars in international funds.