U.S. Asks Taliban to Spare Its Kabul Embassy in Coming Fight for Capital

Mr. Khalilzad is hoping to convince Taliban leaders that the embassy must remain open, and secure, if the group hopes to receive American financial aid and other assistance as part of a future Afghan government. The Taliban leadership has said it wants to be seen as a legitimate steward of the country, and is seeking relations with other global powers, including Russia and China, in part to receive economic support.

Two officials confirmed Mr. Khalilzad’s efforts, which have not been previously reported, on condition of anonymity to discuss the delicate negotiations. The State Department’s spokesman, Ned Price, declined to comment on Wednesday, but said funding would be conditioned on whether future Afghan governments would “have any semblance of durability.”

“Legitimacy bestows, and essentially is the ticket, to the levels of international assistance, humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people,” Mr. Price said.

Other governments are already warning the Taliban that it will not receive aid if it overtakes the Afghan government, given the rampage its fighters have waged across the country in recent days. On Thursday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany said Berlin would not give the Taliban any financial support if it ultimately rules Afghanistan with a hard-line Islamic law.

In other posts around the world, U.S. diplomats said they were closely watching the perilous situation in Kabul to see how the State Department will balance its longstanding commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan against protecting the Americans who remain there as military forces withdraw.

Mr. Neumann described a push-and-pull strain between the Pentagon and the State Department in similar situations, given the military’s responsibility for carrying out evacuations and diplomats’ duty to maintain American assistance and influence even in danger zones.

“If the military goes too early, it may be unnecessary, and it may cost you a lot politically,” Mr. Neumann said. “If the diplomats wait too late, it looks like Saigon off the roof or the departure from Mogadishu after everything was already lost, and it puts the military people at risk. So there’s no guaranteed right side.”

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