The Taliban is reportedly requesting the U.S. keep some diplomatic presence in Afghanistan after the August 31 U.S. troop withdrawal deadline.
U.S. officials have been weighing the possibility of reopening the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and keeping some diplomats in the country, but no decision has been made as to whether the plan will go through, according to an official familiar with the discussions who spoke to the Washington Post on Friday.
U.S. diplomats evacuated the Kabul embassy building on Sunday, August 15, as the U.S.-backed Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban seized control of the city. The U.S. Embassy officials have provided a few updates through the official embassy website and their official Twitter account, however, on Tuesday, the Kabul embassy website also announced the consular section at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is closed and nonimmigrant visa appointments have all been canceled.
The reported Taliban request comes just days after Taliban officials demanded that President Joe Biden stick by August 31 as the deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and warned of “consequences” if he tried to keep troops in the country beyond that date.
The Washington Post reported the Taliban is requesting the continued U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan to help boost the credibility of the new Taliban government, which is seeking international recognition.
The Taliban may also be hoping to restore international economic aid, which has been cut off since the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The BBC reported both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank cut off funds to Afghanistan after the Taliban seized near-total control of the country. President Joe Biden has ordered Afghan government assets held in the U.S. to be frozen.
Any decision to keep U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan will likely have to consider the increased security threats in the country, particularly after ISIS terrorists killed 13 U.S. troops and wounded 18 more in a suicide bombing attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday.
In addition to maintaining a diplomatic presence in the country, the Taliban have also reportedly been in talks with the U.S. about who will manage the Kabul airport going forward. For nearly the last two weeks, U.S. forces have been in charge of air traffic control out of the Kabul airport, and have been running evacuation flights out of Afghanistan through that airfield. The official who spoke with the Washington Post said the U.S. is in discussions with private sector entities and regional partners including both the Taliban and Turkey, regarding how the airport will continue to operate after U.S. troops leave.