U.S Says New Male-only, Taliban-exclusive Government Must Earn Legitimacy

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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaking at a press conference in Kabul, on Tuesday.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid speaking at a press conference in Kabul, on Tuesday.Credit: Muhammad Farooq/AP

The U.S., along with European and Asian powers, offered a lukewarm reception Wednesday to the Taliban's provisional government in Afghanistan, following the Islamist militants' lightning seizure of Kabul last month.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said a provisional Afghan cabinet was not the inclusive government the Taliban had promised and that the Islamist group needs to earn the international legitimacy and support it seeks.

Blinken, visiting a U.S. air base in Germany that has been a transit point for evacuees from Afghanistan, also called on the Taliban to allow charter flights carrying Americans and at-risk Afghans to depart the country.

"We're 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 at a news conference.

Washington was "concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of those individuals," Blinken added.

Taliban leaders filled all the top posts in Tuesday's government list – which had no outsiders and no women – while an associate of the group's founder was named prime minister, and the interior minister figured on a U.S. terrorism wanted list.

The structure of the new government runs counter to advice to the Taliban from world powers for an inclusive government, backing up its pledges of a more conciliatory approach that upholds human rights, if it sought peace and development.

Voicing concern about the government's composition, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he saw little reason for optimism about conditions in Afghanistan.

"The announcement of a transitional government without the participation of other groups, and yesterday's violence against demonstrators and journalists in Kabul, are not signals that give cause for optimism," he said.

Afghans who enjoyed major progress in education and civil liberties over the 20 years of U.S.-backed government remain fearful of Taliban intentions and daily protests have continued since the Taliban takeover.

Maas said, however, that Germany was willing to keep talking to the Taliban in a bid to ensure more people were able to leave the country, hit by food shortages and a halt in international payments.

China, which shares a border with Afghanistan, had urged the establishment of an "open and inclusive" government after the Taliban seized power, amid the chaos following the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in Beijing on Wednesday that China viewed the establishment of the new government as a necessary step towards reconstruction in Afghanistan.

"We hope the new Afghanistan authorities will listen broadly to people of all races and factions, so as to meet the aspirations of its own peoples and the expectations of the international community," Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing.

China was ready to maintain communication with the leaders of the new government, Wang added, in comments prompted by a query about whether Beijing would recognize the new government.

In Tokyo, a top official said Japan was monitoring the actions of the Taliban and would keep up cooperation with the United States and other countries, while expressing concern over the safety of citizens in Afghanistan.

"Through various efforts, including practical dialogue with the Taliban, we are doing the utmost to ensure safety of Japanese nationals and for local staff who remain," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato.

He also promised support for Japanese who wanted to leave the south Asian nation.

The European Union voiced disapproval of the Taliban's provisional government in Afghanistan after the Islamist militants named several leaders, saying they had not kept a promise to include women and other religious groups.

"It does not look like the inclusive and representative formation in terms of the rich ethnic and religious diversity of Afghanistan we hoped to see and that the Taliban were promising over the past weeks," said Peter Stano, spokesperson for the EU's foreign policy service.

"Such inclusivity and representation is expected in the composition of a future transitional government, and as a result of negotiations," he said in a statement.

The United Nations has said basic services are unraveling in Afghanistan with food and other aid about to run out. More than half a million people have been displaced internally in Afghanistan this year.

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