The Taliban have released two Americans that had been in detention in Afghanistan, the state department said on Tuesday – the same day that the group faced condemnation for banning women at universities.
“This, we understand, to have been a goodwill gesture on the part of the Taliban. This was not part of any swap of prisoners or detainees. There was no money that exchanged hands,” state department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
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The two Americans released had arrived in Qatar on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported, citing diplomats familiar with the matter.
The identities of the two nationals were not disclosed. Price said that confidentiality rules forbade him from offering more details on the two Americans.
Speaking at a daily press briefing, Price said Washington was continuing to raise with the Taliban the need to release any US nationals still held in Afghanistan, but declined to provide who they may be and how many people may be held there.
“We are in a position to welcome the release of two American nationals from detention in Afghanistan. We are providing these to US nationals with all appropriate assistance. They will soon be reunited with their loved ones,” Price said.
He pointed out “the irony of them granting us a goodwill gesture on a day where they undertake a gesture like this [banning girls from universities] to the Afghan people, it’s not lost on us,” he said. “But it is a question for the Taliban themselves regarding the timing of this.”
On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s Taliban-run higher education ministry said that female students would not be allowed access to the country’s universities until further notice.
The announcement came as the United Nations Security Council met in New York on Afghanistan. The United States and British UN envoys condemned the move during the council meeting.
“The Taliban cannot expect to be a legitimate member of the international community until they respect the rights of all Afghans, especially the human rights and fundamental freedom of women and girls,” US Deputy UN Ambassador Robert Wood said.
“We have an interest in seeing Americans released from detention. That is a uniquely US interest. But beyond that, the categories that I spoke about earlier – human rights, safe passage, representative government, counterterrorism … We will continue to advocate for these interests,” Price said.
The US has repeatedly condemned the Taliban’s track record since the group swept back to power last year when President Joe Biden pulled out US troops, leading the two-decade-old Western-backed government to collapse.