US 'concerned' at Taliban govt makeup but will look at actions

State Department asks Taliban to offer safe passage to US citizens, Afghans who want to leave: UN hopes to soon deliver aid to Afghanistan by land

By: AFP      Published: 07:47 AM, 8 Sep, 2021
US 'concerned' at Taliban govt makeup but will look at actions
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah al-Khater (2nd L) meet with Afghan all-female robotics team members at Qatar's Education City Club House in Doha.–AFP

The United States said it was concerned about members of a Taliban government named Tuesday but said it would judge it by actions, including letting Afghans leave freely.

"We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women. We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals," a State Department spokesperson said as Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks on Afghanistan in Qatar.

"We understand that the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet. However, we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words."

The State Department renewed its call on the Taliban to offer safe passage to US citizens as well as Afghans looking to leave.

Blinken earlier Tuesday in Qatar said that the Taliban were cooperating so long as travelers had travel documents, amid charges from Republican lawmakers and activists that charter planes were stuck.

The Taliban named as their acting prime minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, who is on a UN sanctions list and served in the Islamists' brutal 1996-2001 regime.

His deputy will be Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban who was released by Pakistan under US pressure to take part in negotiations on the withdrawal of US troops.

Also Read: Mullah Hasan Akhund named acting Afghan prime minister

And the interior minister will be Sirajuddin Haqqani, part of a US-designated terrorist group, despite a US offer of millions of dollars for information leading to his arrest.

"We have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government," the State Department spokesperson said.

The Taliban swiftly toppled the 20-year-old Western-backed government last month just as President Joe Biden was completing a pullout to end America's longest war.

UN aid by land

The United Nations hopes to deliver aid to Afghanistan by land soon, a senior UN official said Tuesday, adding that a new representative of the global body was en route to the country.

"We would like to see the beginning of road travel in from other countries for supplies," said Martin Griffiths, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

Griffiths, speaking via videoconference, met the war-wary nation's new Taliban leadership in Kabul on Sunday and Monday.

For aid to flow however the new Afghan government must provide security.

"We need to see security to allow humanitarian delivery," Griffiths said.

He added that UN officials were seeking to confirm in writing oral promises of security from the Taliban, who took over Afghanistan late last month after a lightning offensive as US troops withdrew.

"Humanitarian agencies around the world in every country need independence of assessment, delivery and monitoring of assistance, security and safety of national and international humanitarian workers ... and of their families," he said.

Also Read: Key players in the Taliban's new government

Griffiths also confirmed that the head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, Filippo Grandi, was on his way to Afghanistan and hopes to be able to travel from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar.

Last week the United Nations announced that humanitarian flights, including from Pakistan, had resumed to northern and southern Afghanistan.

Some 600,000 Afghans have been displaced this year due to the unrest, Griffiths said.

According to UN officials about half the country's population, or 18 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called an international ministerial meeting in Geneva for Monday to increase humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

UN officials are seeking $606 million to help the country through the end of the year.