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Taliban chief holds wide-ranging talks with Qatar prime minister

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KABUL: Supreme leader of the Taliban has held wide-ranging talks with Qatar’s prime minister this month with focus on bolstering Afghanistan engagement with the international community amidst simmering tensions over Taliban rule.

A Reuters’ source said Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani held talks with the supreme leader of the Taliban Haibatullah Akhunzada in Kandahar city and both sides exchanged views about Taliban ban on girls’ education and women’s employment, UN agencies and humanitarian groups to restore operations in the country and formation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

The meeting heralded a new chapter in Taliban’s foreign policy and signaled their wiliness to discuss a way out of their isolation.

According to the source, U.S. government was briefed on the talks and is “coordinating on all issues discussed by the pair, including furthering dialogue with the Taliban”.

The meeting represents a diplomatic success for Qatar, which has criticized Taliban restrictions on women while using long-standing ties with the Islamist movement to push for deeper engagement with Kabul by the international community.

The United States has led demands for the Taliban to end the bans on girls’ schooling and women working, including for U.N. agencies and humanitarian groups, to restore their freedom of movement and bring Afghans from outside Taliban ranks into government.

The source’s comments suggested that Washington supported elevating what have been unproductive lower-level talks in the hope of a breakthrough that could end the world’s only bans of their kind and ease dire humanitarian and financial crises that have left tens of millions of Afghans hungry and jobless.

The restrictions on women’s schooling and work have stymied humanitarian aid and are key reasons why no country has recognized Taliban rule since they seized power in August 2021, after the Western-backed government collapsed as the last U.S.-led international troops departed following two decades of war.

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