Top US officials met with the Taliban face-to-face on Saturday, which was also the first time since the United States killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri earlier this year, CNN reported.

According to the report, the American delegation included the deputy director of the CIA, David Cohen, and a State Department official, Tom West, whereas the Taliban envoys consisted of several officials, most notably the head of intelligence Abdul Haq Wasiq.

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Following the killing of Zawahiri in July, the United States said that the Taliban violated the Doha agreement, which stated that the latter will not be harbouring terrorists in the country. The Taliban, on the other hand, criticised the operation by the United States that saw Hellfire missiles being fired to assassinate Zawahiri.

While fingers were raised by both sides, the United States and the Taliban have been negotiating prisoner exchange since then, including the release of Mark Frerichs. However, senior US officials who are part of the Biden administration did not meet with their Taliban counterparts in person since July.

Saturday’s meeting included top intelligence officials of both the US and the Taliban, Cohen and Wasiq, which could be indicating a potential agreement by the two sides on counterterrorism. The United States has been keen to work with the Taliban on counterterrorism for some time and the White House called the notion a work in progress only in September 2022.

Meanwhile, Tom West, who accompanied Cohen to the meeting with the Taliban delegation, has often spearheaded US engagement with the Taliban since the withdrawal of the country’s forces from the Asian nation.

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According to senior US officials, the release of Mark Frerichs was a result of months of negotiations with the Taliban. While Frerichs was released a couple of weeks before Saturday’s meeting, another American citizen named Ivor Shearer, a filmmaker, who filmed the area where Zawahiri was killed by the US was arrested and is currently being detained in Afghanistan.

The US announced in September that it had set up an Afghan Fund using frozen money from the nation to aid the economic stability of the country. However, the money has not been released till now as the United States is of the opinion that there is a lack of a trustworthy organisation that can guarantee the usage of the funds for the betterment of the Afghan citizens, CNN reported.