Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said the international community was “concerned” by the Taliban’s new interim government and called on it to prove its commitment by allowing foreign nationals and vulnerable Afghans to leave the country.
In a joint press conference with Heiko Maas, German Foreign Minister, at the US military base in Ramstein in Germany, Mr Blinken said charter flights organized by private groups and individuals had been blocked by the Taliban, who argued that some did not have the proper papers.
“We have made it clear to the Taliban that these charters must be able to go,” he said after an online meeting with representatives from more than 20 countries on how to approach the Taliban government.
Discussions focused on how to ensure their demands are met in return for an offer of humanitarian aid cooperation with the Taliban. Their main interests were the free movement of Afghan and foreign nationals seeking to leave Afghanistan, guarantees from the Taliban that they would fight jihadist groups who sought to use its territory, the protection of human rights and broader representation in the future. government.
Mr Blinken said some members of the new cabinet had “difficult backgrounds,” an indirect reference to the fact that 17 of the 33 cabinet members are either on the UN sanctions lists or are wanted by the FBI.
The Taliban said the government was temporary and would eventually be replaced by one that included both political opponents and more representatives of ethnic groups other than the dominant Pashtuns.
“We understand that the Taliban presented this as an interim cabinet,” Blinken said. “The international community has clearly expressed its expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government. “
Western leaders are trying to avoid completely isolating the Taliban, as they did during their rule in the 1990s before the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan by the United States. But they were disappointed that Abdul Ghani Baradar, who led negotiations with the United States, was not appointed prime minister. Instead, he was appointed deputy to Mohammad Hassan Akhund, adviser to late Taliban founder Mohammed Omar.
Mr. Maas and Mr. Blinken said they were coordinating with 100 different countries to ensure international consensus on how to approach the Taliban. “We don’t want them playing us against each other,” Maas said.
But China appeared to offer a temporary embrace to the caretaker government, announcing it would donate € 26 million in coronavirus food, supplies and vaccines to its neighbor.
“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during a video conference with Taliban leaders and representatives from Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. “The United States and its allies hastily withdrew and the so-called ‘democratic transformation’ ended in failure.
Wang, however, laid down preconditions for Afghanistan to receive infrastructure investments, saying he must monitor security and prevent drug trafficking before announcing any Belt and Road projects in the country. .
Brussels said an inclusive Afghan government was a requirement for any engagement with the Taliban-led administration and that the appointments did not appear to respond to its calls for an inclusive government.
“This does not sound like the inclusive and representative formation in terms of Afghanistan’s rich ethnic and religious diversity that we were hoping to see and that the Taliban were promising in recent weeks,” said Peter Stano, spokesperson for the diplomatic arm. of the EU.
The UK also questioned the nominations and said a government should not only represent other groups but women as well. “We will judge the Taliban by their actions, not their words,” the British Foreign Office said.
The new cabinet also has Sirajuddin Haqqani as interior minister. The FBI offers a bounty of 5 million dollars (4.2 million euros) to Mr. Haqqani, a senior official of the Haqqani network accused of attacks on American targets.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai and veteran politician Abdullah Abdullah have been excluded, despite extensive discussions with Taliban leaders.
The United States and its NATO allies completed a chaotic withdrawal last month following the rapid takeover of the country by the Taliban.
– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021