The release was unveiled on the same day the Taliban banned women from attending universities in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have released two Americans detained in Afghanistan, the State Department said Tuesday — the same day the group was convicted of banning women from universities.
“We understand that this was a goodwill gesture on the part of the Taliban. This was not part of an exchange of prisoners or detainees. There was no money changing hands,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
The two freed Americans had arrived in Qatar on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported, citing diplomats familiar with the matter.
The identities of the two nationals have not been disclosed. Price said confidentiality rules prohibited him from giving more details about the two Americans.
Speaking at a daily press briefing, Price said Washington continued to press the Taliban on the need to release US nationals still held in Afghanistan, but declined to say who they are and how many people are held there.
“We are in a position to welcome the release of two US citizens from detention in Afghanistan. We provide these to US citizens with all necessary assistance. They will soon be reunited with their loved ones,” Price said.
He pointed out “the irony that they give us a gesture of goodwill on a day when they undertake a gesture like this [banning girls from universities] for the Afghan people it has not gone unnoticed,” he said. “But it’s a question for the Taliban themselves as to the timing of this.”
On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s Taliban-led ministry of higher education said female students will 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 at 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 human rights and the fundamental freedom of women and girls,” said US Deputy UN Ambassador Robert Wood.
“We have an interest in seeing Americans released from detention. That is a uniquely American concern. But aside from that, the categories I talked about earlier – human rights, safe passage, representative government, counter-terrorism… We will continue to advocate for these interests,” Price said.
The Taliban have banned women from most workplaces, ordered them to wear head-to-toe clothing in public, and banned them from parks and gyms.
The US has repeatedly condemned the Taliban’s record since the group returned to power last year when President Joe Biden withdrew US troops, causing the two-decade-old Western-backed government to collapse.