September 15, 2021 08:20
The Taliban applauded the global community Tuesday for pledging hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency assistance to Afghanistan but dismissed criticism of their week-old interim government by the United States and others.
Speaking to reporters in Kabul, the Taliban government's acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, promised the group will ensure aid reaches those who need it in a "completely transparent manner."
Decades of conflict, severe drought and the coronavirus pandemic have pushed the already impoverished country to the brink. Conditions have worsened since the Taliban swept back to power last month as the American and Western allied troops withdrew and foreign aid dried up. Last week, the Islamist group announced an interim government in Kabul.
An international conference in Geneva on Monday saw donors pledge more than $1 billion in aid to help ease the worsening humanitarian crises facing the country. The United Nations has warned the Afghan economy is on the verge of collapse and millions of peoples could soon run out of food.
"The Afghan people are in desperate need of help but this humanitarian aid should not be linked to any political reasons," Muttaqi insisted. He also urged the world to unfreeze Afghanistan's assets to enable Kabul use its own money to avert a worsening humanitarian crisis.
Since the Taliban takeover, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have halted the country's access to funding, while the United States has frozen billions of dollars held in its reserve for Kabul. Washington and the global community at large are reluctant to recognize the male-only and exclusively Taliban-led government, in which several top position holders are blacklisted by the U.S. and the UN.
On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that Washington's direct diplomatic engagement with any Taliban-led government will be linked to whether it upholds the Taliban's commitments to combat terrorism and support human rights, including those of women and minorities.
"The interim government named by the Taliban falls very short of the mark that was set by the international community for inclusivity, a government that was broadly representative of the Afghan people, not just the Taliban and its constituency, and to include women. It includes many key members who have very challenging track records," said Blinken.
Muttaqi dismissed those objections as "not just and unfair," and again gave assurances to the international community that the Taliban will uphold human rights of all Afghans in line with "well-established" local traditions.
"Our government is fully inclusive. It clearly represents all segment of the Afghan society. As you all know, this is an interim government and we intend to make positive changes in it," said the acting foreign minister. "We will not allow anyone or any groups to use our soil against any other countries," he added.
Muttaqi asked Washington to show praise for the Taliban for allowing the U.S. to complete a troop withdrawal and evacuate more than 120,000 people by the August 31 deadline. "America is a big country, they need to have a big heart," he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, while addressing Monday's humanitarian conference in Geneva, underscored the importance of engaging with the Taliban, saying he believed aid could be used as leverage to press the hard-line group to protect the basic rights of Afghans. "It is impossible to provide humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan without engaging with the de facto authorities," said Guterres.
During their past government from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban introduced a strict interpretation of Islamic law in the country and enforced a brutal justice system, barred women from public life and girls from receiving an education.
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