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U.S. cancels Taliban talks over girls' education U-turn

Afghan girls attend school in Herat, Afghanistan
Niñas afganas en una escuela de Herat, Afganistán | Shutterstock

March 25, 2022 1:04pm

Updated: March 25, 2022 1:04pm

In a sign that the Kabul’s recent reversal on human rights will be met with opposition from the West, U.S. officials announced on Friday that the government had pulled out of meetings with Taliban officials in Doha – just days after Afghanistan’s Islamist rulers decreed that girls will no longer be allowed to return to high school classes.

"Their decision was a deeply disappointing and inexplicable reversal of commitments to the Afghan people, first and foremost, and also to the international community," a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Reuters.

"We have cancelled some of our engagements, including planned meetings in Doha, and made clear that we see this decision as a potential turning point in our engagement."

The Biden administration was expected to meet with an Afghan delegation in Qatar to discuss central bank policy and a humanitarian exchange facility. Both the UN and the World Bank were also expected to participate in the talks.

Ultimately, the move highlights the trouble the Taliban presently faces in accessing foreign aid and freeing up its devastated banking sector, which faces hard currency shortages and soaring levels of inflation. This has been exacerbated by the fact that billions of dollars in foreign reserves are currently frozen in Western capitals across the world as dozens of governments refuse to recognize Afghanistan’s new government.  

Washington, however, has signaled that it is willing to enter talks so long as human rights issues in Afghanistan are improved. The Taliban has also been accused of hampering free speech, using violence against protestors and assassinating political rivals.

The group, however, has promised to defend the rights of Afghans within its interpretation of Islamic Law – a pledge that has brought little comfort to Western lawmakers.

A major donor summit for humanitarian aid is set to take place this month to help raise $4.4 billion in funding the UN says it needs to meet urgent needs in the country.