Washington supports Taliban’s ‘vigorous’ efforts to wipe out Daesh: Envoy

LONDON: Washington has no plans to establish diplomatic relations with the Taliban any time soon, but supports their effort to crack down on Daesh’s Afghanistan division, the US special representative for Afghanistan said on Monday.

In a press briefing attended by Arab News, Thomas West added that the US has an “unwavering commitment to ensuring that Afghanistan never, ever again becomes a launching pad for terrorists to harm us or our allies.”

He said: “When it comes to reopening our embassy in Kabul … we’re not seriously thinking about taking that step at this time. I think what we want to see is the establishment of a record of responsible conduct by the Taliban, of predictable conduct, and then we’ll assess what needs we have on the diplomatic front.”

Asked about the security situation in Afghanistan vis-a-vis international terrorist groups, West said: “We want the Taliban to succeed against ISIS-K (Daesh’s Afghanistan division). I think they have a very vigorous effort underway against that group. We condemn the innocent loss of Afghan lives that have taken place in recent weeks at the hands of vicious ISIS-K attacks across the country.”

He added: “We’re worried about the uptick in ISIS-K attacks, and we want the Taliban to be successful against them.”

West said he is “very concerned” about other groups such as Al-Qaeda which maintain a presence in Afghanistan, and it is an ongoing issue of concern in Washington’s dialogue with the Taliban.

This summer, the Taliban rapidly seized Afghanistan from the US-backed government that had previously ruled the country with NATO’s assistance.

The American and wider NATO withdrawal was marred by violence, including a Daesh attack outside Kabul airport that killed nearly 200 people, including more than a dozen US service members.

Since then, Afghanistan has faced an economic and humanitarian crisis that threatens the lives of millions.

Regarding this humanitarian crisis, West said the UN has an “absolutely essential role to play in Afghanistan right now. They have a big footprint and are delivering life-saving aid.” The US “will be entirely and squarely behind” the UN’s efforts, he added.

West said Washington is continuing its efforts to extract US-allied Afghans and American citizens from the country, and the Taliban have been largely cooperative.

“The Taliban have delivered, by and large, on their commitment to us to allow Afghans who we owe a special commitment and American citizens and LPRs (legal permanent residents) out of the county,” he added. “The real challenge is potentially logistical.”

West explained that the commercial and charter flights being used to extract Americans and US-allied Afghans from Kabul may not continue into the winter because the runway is damaged.

“We recognize the need for international flights to resume regular scheduled operations, and we support that resumption soon, but that’s also a matter for the Taliban to move ahead on with potential partners in that endeavor,” he said.