At the regular briefing for White House reporters, Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the United States is in contact with the Taliban controlling Afghanistan through what she called “a range of channels.”
The president’s top spokeswoman did not elaborate.
But there is one possible channel to the Taliban that may have surfaced in a report the same day from an Italian publication: Pope Francis, who reportedly has used Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an intermediary to make contact with the Taliban.
“A reserved channel has unexpectedly been opened between the Holy See and the Taliban to create a humanitarian corridor,” the respected Italian daily Il Tempo reported.
The publication went on to say that the negotiations included “[Pope Francis], the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Erdogan and the Taliban regime.”
It would not be implausible for the Vatican to keep the White House abreast of any dialogue with the Taliban. In February, the White House made it clear that President Joe Biden has a favorable relationship with the pope.
There is a picture in the Oval Office, Psaki told Newsmax, “that is a reflection of that.”
In the same February briefing, Psaki would not confirm or deny to us whether the White House was using the pope as a back channel to Iran.
Pope Francis has had a long and cordial relationship with Iran's spiritual and political leadership, and, in 2020, Iran's Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad Ahmadabadi wrote Pope Francis to "humbly ask you, as a beloved world leader of Catholics, to intervene so that those [U.S.] sanctions are eliminated."
Since the pope does not have the same relationship with the Taliban that he has with the Iranian leadership, the speculation has mounted that Erdogan has been the pivotal go-between for the Vatican to Kabul.
The pope has publicly prayed for an end to the turmoil in Afghanistan and reportedly is urging the Taliban leadership to end religious persecution as well as permitting safe passage for refugees.
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