Taliban calls for lifting of restrictions and return of frozen assets during Doha meeting

The Taliban said on Monday evening its delegation met with US Special Representative Thomas West and called for the return of Afghanistan’s frozen assets, and the lifting of travel bans and other restrictions against its leaders.

The meeting took place in Doha amid ongoing sanctions against the Taliban, which regained control of the country almost two years ago. The Taliban has not however been recognized as the legitimate government by any country.

According to a statement issued by the Taliban’s foreign ministry spokesman Qahar Balkhi, the “IEA reiterated that it was crucial for confidence-building that blacklists & reward lists be removed, & bank reserves be unfrozen so that Afghans can establish an economy unreliant on foreign aid.”

Balkhi said the IEA delegation led by acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met West and a 15-strong US delegation from various departments.

Afghanistan’s foreign reserves totaling about $7 billion were frozen in the US Federal Reserve Bank at the time of the Taliban’s 2021 takeover. Since then, half of this has been moved to a Swiss-based fund, but remains frozen.

In addition, most Taliban leaders are on the UN’s black list and need the organization’s permission to travel.

The Taliban’s statement meanwhile came after two-days of closed door talks in Doha – a development that experts say was in the interests of both sides.

Former Afghanistan ambassador to Norway, Shukria Barakzai said: “On the surface, they show that the issues of human rights, women’s rights, the right to work, the right to education, and the creation of a comprehensive government are among the main issues, but let’s not forget that it is their interests for the US, whether their interests are in peace in the region or disrupting order.”

Barna Salehi, an expert in international relations, stated: “The United States of America and the Taliban are seeking to reach an agreement so that they can at least use the influence of the other if it does not end at the recognition of the Taliban’s emirate; the Taliban for the continuation of their rule and the United States for its interests and purposes from the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the region.”

Meanwhile, the Purple Saturdays Movement, a movement of women in Ghazni, Balkh and Takhar provinces, called on the international community not to lift sanctions imposed on the Taliban, provide funds to the group, or officially recognize them.

“We ask the country of Qatar and its allies not to interfere in the interests of the Taliban in the affairs of Afghanistan and not whitewash the Taliban with this kind of meeting. The international community’s blackmailing and giving death to this group must stop. We ask the international community to choose an alternative to the Taliban government,” said a member of the group.