Hundreds of people have died in Afghanistan’s most recent natural disaster.
Afghan and US officials are set to meet in the Qatari capital in efforts to respond to a deadly earthquake that struck southeastern Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported.
Led by Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Maulvi Amir Khan Muttaqi, a number of finance and central bank officials are expected to meet with a US Treasury department official in Doha, Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman Hafiz Zia Ahmad confirmed.
Both parties will discuss Afghanistan’s economic and banking sectors, which have been hard hit by layers of US sanctions and the freezing of some $9 billion in central bank reserve funds in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
A report by the Washington Post earlier this week pointed towards movement by the US Biden administration to set up a mechanism that would allow Kabul to use its central bank reserves as it continues to face devastating hunger and poverty crises.
Last week, Afghanistan was rocked with a deadly earthquake that killed 770 people, according to UN figures, noting this includes some 155 children. However, the ruling Taliban party says the death toll has surpassed 1,150, making this the country’s deadliest tremor in two decades.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the magnitude of the earthquake early on Wednesday last week stood at 5.9, revising an initial estimate of 6.1. The epicentre of the quake was about 46 kilometres from the city of Khost, near the Pakistani border, the USGS confirmed.
“People are digging grave after grave,” said Muhammad Amin Huzaifa, head of the Information and Culture Department in devastated Paktika, according to Al Jazeera.
Zabiullah Mujahid took to Twitter to announce that a series of aid cargoes have been delivered to the hard-hit areas, including a shipment from Qatar. However, charities are struggling to access the quake-stricken region.
Earlier this week, the Taliban renewed calls to unfreeze foreign funds and lift financial sanctions so it can deal with the aftereffects of the natural disaster, which destroyed some 3,000 homes.
However, aid agencies say sanctions exemptions and the limited release of some frozen funds in Afghanistan do not cover the issue of overall economic collapse in the country.
Qatar has played a key role in conflict resolution in Afghanistan. Doha hosted the intra-Afghan talks between Afghanistan’s former government and the Taliban in 2020 in an effort to reach a political solution.
During the same year, it hosted talks between the US and the Taliban, where the Doha agreement was signed. The agreement stipulated a date for the conditional foreign troop withdrawal from Kabul, before it was later revised by the new US Joe Biden administration in 2021.
Following the Taliban takeover, the Gulf state facilitated history’s largest airlift of people, evacuating more than 70,000 Afghans and foreigners.
Qatar also continued to facilitate dialogue between the west and the interim Taliban-led administration to address the dire economic and humanitarian situation on the ground. It has also hosted the Taliban’s office since 2013.