KABUL, Afghanistan – The Foreign Minister of Afghanistan’s new Taliban-led government said on Tuesday the government remains committed to keeping its promises not to allow militants to use its territory to attack others.
Amir Khan Muttaqi’s first press conference since the Taliban formed an interim government a week ago comes as governments around the world – and many Afghans at home – seek guidance on how he will rule the Afghanistan after sweeping the US-backed government and taking Kabul a month ago.
The United States and its allies urged the Taliban not to repeat their harsh rule of the 1990s, when they monopolized power and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, including severe restrictions on women and minorities.
Mottaqi has given few signs whether the Taliban will bow to international pressure. He did not want to say how long the interim government would be in place or whether it would eventually be open to other factions, minorities or women.
He has repeatedly insisted that other countries should not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal problems, including in response to a question about holding elections.
Mottaqi, a longtime Taliban negotiator, last year made the first confirmation by a member of the new government of his commitment to the Taliban deal with the United States that paved the way for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. As part of the deal, the Taliban promised to sever ties with al-Qaida and other militant groups and to make sure they do not threaten other countries from their territory.
“We will not allow anyone or any group to use our soil against other countries,” he said.
During their rule in the 1990s, the Taliban sheltered al-Qaida and its leader Osama bin Laden. The group’s refusal to hand them over after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States prompted the United States to launch its assault on Afghanistan, ousting the Taliban and leading to the ensuing 20-year war.
The Taliban, which invaded Kabul and overthrew the United States on August 15, came under heavy international criticism after forming an interim government made up entirely of Taliban members, despite previous promises to be more inclusive. Afghans and governments around the world fear the Taliban will impose a rule similar to the one they last held power in the 1990s, applying their harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
When asked whether the Taliban would include women or minorities in the government, Mottaqi replied, “We will decide in time,” without making any commitment. He stressed that the government was interim and that when a permanent government is formed “we will take into account what the people want”, although he does not give a timetable for a permanent government.
“We are taking it step by step. We have not said how long this cabinet will last, ”he said.
Governments around the world have said recognition will not take place until a more inclusive government is put in place in Afghanistan. The United Nations now faces a dilemma as it prepares to begin the United Nations General Assembly. Several Taliban ministers, including Mottaqi and the prime minister, are on the UN’s so-called blacklist of international terrorists and terrorist financiers.
Mottaqi urged the UN to act quickly to remove the leaders from the list, saying: “The list makes no sense.” The cabinet also includes Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also on the UN blacklist and wanted by the FBI for questioning in connection with the attacks in the Afghan capital over the past two decades.
When the Taliban last reigned, the UN refused to recognize their government and instead ceded the UN headquarters to the former warlord-dominated government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011.
This time around, it is not clear whether the seat will be reserved for President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the capital after the Taliban reached the gates of Kabul. His departure shocked political leaders in Kabul, including former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s chief negotiator, who are still negotiating with the Taliban to form an interim government.
Mottaqi said the Taliban-led government seeks good relations with nations around the world, but insisted that they must not interfere in its affairs. He also called on international donors to send more aid, saying “Afghanistan is poor. He needs all the help “the world can give and promising that it would be distributed without corruption. He urged international banking institutions to return to Afghanistan to pursue their plans.
He also said that all Afghan embassies operating abroad have been ordered to continue their operations. He promised Afghans would be allowed to leave the country and said it was the job of the Taliban government to provide passports to its citizens.