Afghanistan: Blinken tells Taliban all legitimacy “must be earned”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that any international legitimacy or support for the Taliban “will have to be won” after the new Afghan leadership announced an interim government that drew a deeply skeptical Western response.
The Secretary of State and his German counterpart met at a US base in Germany which has become a key transit point for evacuees from Afghanistan. They hosted a virtual meeting of officials from 22 countries as well as NATO, the European Union and the UN the day after the Taliban announced their all-male interim government.
Blinken said the new Afghan government “certainly does not meet the test of inclusiveness and includes people with very difficult backgrounds.”
The administration is filled with hard-line veterans of the 1990s Taliban and the 20-year battle against the US-led coalition. Early responses suggest he may struggle to win the international support the new leaders desperately need to avoid an economic collapse. It includes Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is wanted for questioning by the FBI, as Home Secretary.
The announcement of a new government came hours after the Taliban fired in the air to disperse protesters in the capital Kabul and arrested several journalists, the second time in less than a week that brutal tactics were used to disperse a demonstration.
“The Taliban are looking for international legitimacy and support,” Blinken told reporters. “All legitimacy, all support will have to be won, and we have heard this at all levels, from all who have participated in today’s session.”
The United States’ engagement with the Taliban and a new government “will be for the purpose of advancing the national interest” and those of its partners, and “in a manner fully in accordance with our laws,” he added. .
Blinken and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called on the Taliban to allow Afghans to travel freely and to respect their basic rights, including those of women. They also urged the Taliban to ensure that Afghanistan is not used to launch attacks, to refrain from retaliatory attacks and to allow humanitarian access.
Blinken said the United States “is still evaluating the announcement” and noted that the Taliban had presented it as an interim cabinet. “We will judge him and them by his actions,” he said.
Maas said the composition of the new government so far “is not the signal for greater international cooperation.”
“It must be clear to the Taliban that international isolation cannot be in their best interests,” Maas said. He added, however, that no one has an interest in turning their backs on Afghanistan and that the international community must use all possibilities it can to exert influence on the group.
As for formal diplomatic recognition, Maas said: “I don’t see it at the moment.”
The French government has declared that “the actions of the Taliban do not correspond to their words”.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in an online briefing that France and others had demanded the safe departure of Afghans wishing to leave, free access to the humanitarian aid, the “total breakdown” of relations with terrorist groups and respect for human rights, in particular the rights of women.
“We can only see that these demands have not been met,” she said.
Pakistan’s foreign minister urged the international community to help prevent a humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.
Qureshi told a virtual meeting of neighboring countries of Afghanistan that since the Taliban takeover of Kabul, “a dreaded bloodshed has not taken place,” and the prospect of conflict. protracted and civil war seems to have been avoided. He said that so far a dreaded exodus of refugees has not taken place either.
The situation remains complex and fluid in Afghanistan, however, and this “requires getting rid of old lenses, developing new ideas and taking a realistic and pragmatic approach,” he said. Qureshi then spoke at the meeting hosted by Blinken and Maas.
Blinken met Maas at Ramstein Air Base, where he traveled after visiting Qatar, another important staging post in the evacuation effort.
So far, more than 34,000 people have been flown to Ramstein under a transit agreement with Germany. As of Wednesday, around 23,000 people had been transported from Ramstein to the United States or other places. There were around 11,200 people at the nearby Rhine base and munitions barracks awaiting their trip.
Authorities say around 90 people applied for asylum in Germany during their stopovers in Ramstein, and officials from both countries say this is in line with existing rules and practices. Maas pointed out that this represents less than 1% of those brought to the base and that the German-US transit agreement is fully respected.
Maas said there are various reasons why these people applied for asylum, such as having relatives in Germany, and noted that the transit operation should not last more than a few weeks. He therefore expects “this situation to remain quite manageable”.