Doha June 29 2022: A top Taliban delegation led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi headed to Qatar Wednesday to hold the latest round of talks with US officials to release about $9 billion of frozen Afghan funds as the nation reels from crises of poverty and hunger.
The discussion will center around “creating a mechanism for releasing the frozen Afghan reserves,” said Ahmad Wali Haqmal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s finance ministry. “We’re expecting this would be a serious round of talks.”
The delegation includes central bank Governor Mohammad Idris and Deputy Finance Minister Nazir Kabiri. They will meet with the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West and officials from the treasury department, Haqmal said.
The meeting is the first since May 21 when West urged Muttaqi to remove restrictions on girl education. Girls are barred from education beyond the sixth grade under the Taliban regime.
The meeting is taking place soon after the Washington Post reported that the administration of President Joe Biden is working with Taliban leadership on a mechanism to allow Afghanistan’s government to use its central bank reserves, while curtailing the Taliban’s access.
It also comes as the Taliban are holding their first grand gathering of 3,000 people, mostly Islamic scholars, in the capital Kabul on Thursday to discuss pressing issues including the ban on girls’ education and how to engage with the world in the absence of international legitimacy.
The US blocked Afghan reserves after the Taliban took control of the country by force last year. The insurgents-turned-politicians are now struggling to fix an economy ravaged by international sanctions and global isolation, which resulted in the nation losing international aid that accounted for more than 40% of its GDP. The UN recently said millions of people in Afghanistan are facing severe hunger.
The country was also hit last week by a powerful earthquake that killed about 1,000 people and wounded more than 1,500 others. Several countries including the US and China rushed aid to the earthquake-affected areas, with the US providing $55 million in humanitarian assistance.