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US-IEA talks focus on economy, human rights, anti-drug trafficking

(Last Updated On: August 1, 2023)

U.S. officials told Afghanistan’s Islamic Emirate that Washington was open to technical talks on economic stability and discussions on combating narcotics trafficking, the U.S. State Department said on Monday following two days of talks in Qatar.

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials raised the lifting of travel and other restrictions on IEA leaders and the return of Afghan central bank assets held abroad, the Kabul administration said.

No country has formally recognized the IEA since their returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021 when U.S.-led foreign forces withdrew in chaos after a 20-year conflict.

The U.S. side repeated concerns about “deteriorating” human rights and called anew on the IEA to reverse bans on girls’ secondary education and womens’ employment and for the release of detained Americans, the State Department said in a statement.

It also sounded positive notes about improved financial data, including lower inflation, and reduced opium poppy cultivation under a 2022 ban. The U.S. side “voiced openness to continue dialogue on counternarcotics,” said the statement. The U.S. side also was ready “for a technical dialogue regarding economic stabilization issues soon.”

Most IEA leaders require U.N. permission to travel abroad, and Afghanistan’s banking sector has been crippled by sanctions since the takeover by the IEA, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Reuters reported.

“IEA reiterated that it was crucial for confidence-building” that travel bans on IEA leaders be lifted and central bank reserves unfrozen “so that Afghans can establish an economy unreliant on foreign aid,” foreign ministry spokesman Qahar Balkhi said in an English-language statement.

About $7 billion in Afghan central bank funds were frozen in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after the IEA took power. Half of the funds now are in a Swiss-based Afghan Fund, read the report.

According to Reuters a U.S.-funded audit of the Afghan central bank failed to win Washington’s backing for a return of assets from the trust fund.