Pakistan has called for “discarding old lenses and developing new insights” in dealing with the changed status quo in Afghanistan. It is being viewed as Islamabad’s implicit support to the interim Taliban cabinet. In recent weeks, Pakistan has been reportedly lobbying before foreign governments to give Taliban, the banned terror group, a chance.
The US State Department has said that there was a “distinction” between Washington’s and Islamabad’s positions on recognising the Taliban’s* 33-member all-male ‘interim cabinet’ in Afghanistan.
“…I don’t want to speak specifically for Pakistan, but there was widespread agreement, including from our Pakistani partners, that the gains of the last 20 years should not be squandered,” stated US State Department spokesperson Ned Price, when asked how Washington viewed the role of Islamabad in Afghanistan.
“There was distinction broadly between broad issues like recognition and legitimacy and practical engagement,” remarked the US official.
Price said that the new Taliban cabinet unveiled this week was a “cause of concern” for the US and the broader global community, as it didn’t reflect what the international community had “hoped” for.
“You have heard us say that the lack of inclusivity, the track records, the backgrounds of some of the individuals (in the Taliban’s interim government) involved, is a cause for concern,” he said.
The remarks come a day after William Burns, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, met Pakistani Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa as well as Lieutenant General Faiz Hamid, the chief of the country’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in Islamabad.
At least six ministers in the Taliban’s interim cabinet are sanctioned by the United Nations for their terrorist ties. The newly-appointed interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, Taliban’s deputy chief, also heads the US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) Haqqani Network and has a $10 million bounty on his head.
Will Watch Taliban’s Actions, says US
At the same time, Price also pointed out during his press briefing that the US would still keep a lookout for the Taliban’s actions in the coming days before making any final decision on whether to recognise the newly announced government.
Price listed out Taliban’s commitments to provide a “safe passage” to US and Afghan nationals wanting to leave the country as well as not allowing Afghan territory to be used for terrorism as the key parameters of judging the militant organisation.
“There was a broad discussion of the threat from ISIS-K, from al-Qaida, from terrorist groups on – that may seek to operate or that are operating on Afghan soil. Will they form an inclusive government? That will be a key question that we’ll look to see as the future Afghan government comes together,” said Price.
“And will they sustain progress for women and girls? In other words, will the gains of the past 20 years that no country did more to facilitate and support than the United States – will those gains be preserved?” he wondered.
A day after the Taliban announced its new cabinet on 7 September, the US and Germany on 8 September hosted a virtual meeting of 22 nations, which also featured delegates from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the United Nations (UN) as well as the European Union (EU).
Addressing a presser with his German counterpart Heiko Mass at the US air base of Ramstein after the virtual meeting, US State Secretary Antony Blinken remarked that the Taliban will have to “earn legitimacy” and that it would be “judged by its actions.”
“We are assessing the announcement… But despite professing that a new government would be inclusive, the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates, and no women,” Blinken said.
Besides the US State Department, the new Taliban cabinet has also drawn a sharp reaction from the Pentagon, which has reportedly said that some of the key figures in the Islamist group’s leadership still remain on the “hit list.”
The reactions from the US were met negatively by the Taliban, which said on 9 September that Washington’s stance on the new cabinet constituted a “violation” of the Doha Peace Deal of February 2020.
“In the Doha Agreement, all officials of the Islamic Emirate without any exception were part of interaction with the US and should have been removed from the UN and US blacklists, a demand which still remains valid,” Taliban’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.