US can work with a Taliban govt that fulfils its promises: Blinken

Published September 9, 2021
This screengrab shows US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during an interview with Tolo News. — Photo courtesy Tolo News Youtube
This screengrab shows US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during an interview with Tolo News. — Photo courtesy Tolo News Youtube

WASHINGTON: 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.

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.”

On Tuesday, the Taliban announced an interim government dominated by the group’s old guard, with no women included.

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.

“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.”

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2021

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