US worrisome by affiliations
of some Taliban ministers

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WASHINGTON: The Biden administration is concerned about the affiliations and track records of several newly-announced Taliban (banned in Russia as a terrorist group) cabinet members, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement to Sputnik.

“We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women,” the spokesperson said on Tuesday. “We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals.”

On Tuesday, the Taliban unveiled their caretaker government with Hasan Akhund, who has been under United Nations sanctions since 2001, at the helm.

Taliban soldiers stand in front of protesters during the anti-Pakistan protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sep Tuesday.

The US State Department spokesperson also said the Biden administration understands the Taliban cabinet has been introduced as a temporary caretaker government, but the group will be judged on their actions.

“We have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government,” the US official said.

In addition, the official said the United States will hold the Taliban to their commitments to allow safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghan allies eligible to leave the country.

The United States also reiterated its clear expectation that the Taliban will prevent the country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists and to ensure humanitarian aid is allowed into Afghanistan, the spokesperson said.

US can work with a Taliban govt: Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that the United States could work with a Taliban government that fulfils its commitments and obligations, otherwise it will not.

“My hope and, beyond hope, expectation is that the future government of Afghanistan will uphold those basic (human) rights. And if it does, then that’s a government that we can work with. If it doesn’t, we won’t,” Mr Blinken told Afghanistan’s Tolo news agency.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Asked if the US would recognise the Taliban government, he said: “That will depend entirely on what it does, not just on what it says. And the trajectory of its relationship with us and with the rest of the world will depend on its actions.”

Mohammad Hasan Akhund, a close aide to the group’s late founder Mullah Omar, heads the new government. When Dawn sought the US State Department’s reaction to the interim government, a spokesperson said: “We have seen the announcement and are assessing it. We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women.”

The United States, the official said, was also “concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals” in the government.

The head of the interim cabinet — Mullah Akhund — is on a UN blacklist. Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted by the American FBI. The FBI had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Mr Haqqani’s arrest but on Tuesday it increased the reward to $10m.

“We understand that the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet. However, we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words. We have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government,” the State Department’s spokesperson said.

Taliban soldiers stand in front of protesters during the anti-Pakistan protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sep Tuesday.

“We will continue to hold the Taliban to their commitments to allow safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans with travel documents, including permitting flights currently ready to fly out of Afghanistan to agreed-upon onward destinations,” the official added.

“We also reiterate our clear expectation that the Taliban ensure that Afghan soil is not used to threaten any other countries and allow humanitarian access in support of the Afghan people. The world is watching closely.”

When the interviewer reminded Secretary Blinken that the Taliban were already violating the commitments they made, he said: “We will see… whether it corrects course on any of these incidents of abusive conduct. That is going to be very important.”

Asked if the US knew about and facilitated President Ashraf Ghani’s escape from Afghanistan, he said he was on the phone with the president the night before he fled the country.

“He told me… he was prepared to fight to the death. In less than 24 hours, he’d left Afghanistan. So no, I certainly didn’t know about it, and we certainly did nothing to facilitate it.”

Ashraf Ghani apologises to nation

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul as Taliban forces reached the outskirts of the city last month, apologised on Wednesday for the abrupt fall of his government but denied that he had taken millions of dollars with him.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Ghani said he had left at the urging of his security team who said that if he stayed there was a risk of “the same horrific street-to-street fighting the city had suffered during the Civil War of the 1990s.”

“Leaving Kabul was the most difficult decision of my life, but I believed it was the only way to keep the guns silent and save Kabul and her 6 million citizens,” he said.

Ashraf Ghani

The statement largely echoed a message Ghani sent from the United Arab Emirates in the immediate aftermath of his departure, which drew bitter criticism from former allies who accused him of betrayal.

Ghani, a former World Bank official who became president after two bitterly disputed elections marred by widespread allegations of fraud on both sides, dismissed reports that he had left with millions of dollars in cash as “completely and categorically false.”

“Corruption is a plague that has crippled our country for decades and fighting corruption has been a central focus of my efforts as president,” he said, adding that he and his Lebanese-born wife were “scrupulous in our personal finances.”

He offered appreciation for the sacrifices Afghans had made over the past 40 years of war in their country.

“It is with deep and profound regret that my own chapter ended in similar tragedy to my predecessors — without ensuring stability and prosperity. I apologise to the Afghan people that I could not make it end differently.”