In a move sure to stun the nation, key officials from the Biden administration on Saturday met with a delegation of Taliban leaders, marking the first such talks since al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri was taken out by American forces while bivouacked in an apartment in Kabul, Afghanistan, as CBS News reports.
The meeting, which took place in Doha, Qatar, included CIA Deputy Director David Cohen, State Department negotiator Tom West, and Taliban intelligence chief Abdul Haq Wasiq, as the Washington Examiner noted, though neither agency offered comment on the proceedings.
Word of the discussions comes almost three months after talks between the two parties ceased over American frustration with the fact that the aforementioned al Qaeda leader had been living in Afghanistan, despite assurances from officials in the country that terror leaders would find no such safe harbor there.
Immediately following Zawahiri's death, the U.S. government declared the Taliban in "clear and blatant violation" of the Doha agreement brokered by the previous administration, in which the Taliban pledged not to offer a haven to terrorists, provided that American forces withdrew from Afghanistan – something which occurred, albeit in disastrous fashion, in August of last year.
While the death of Zawahiri was a welcome development here at home, the fact that he had been living, apparently unbothered, in Afghanistan, still elicited harsh criticism from Republican members of Congress, as the New York Post notes.
"The American people were lied to by President Biden," said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX). "Our chaotic and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan opened the door for al Qaeda to operate freely inside he country to conduct external operations against the United States and our allies again," he added.
Speculating on topics discussed at the weekend's meeting, former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Beth Sanner suggested that Cohen would likely "deliver a firm message that we will conduct more strikes as we did against Zawahiri if we find that al Qaeda members in Afghanistan are supporting operations that threaten the U.S. or its allies," CBS News noted.
Other possible subjects raised at the meeting, according to the outlet, include the devastating loss of freedoms suffered by women and girls since the botched U.S. withdrawal from the country last year, the severity of which a U.N. human rights rapporteur recently described as "staggering."
"In no other country have women and girls so rapidly disappeared from all spheres of public life," the official explained, evidence of yet another shameful manifestation of President Joe Biden's calamitously mismanaged retreat from the country, which has left the region an unstable, volatile mess.