Taliban seek ties with US, other ex-foes

Taliban seek ties with US, other ex-foes

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Kabul: Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers are committed in principle to providing education and employment for girls and women, which are markedly different from their previous periods in power, and seek the world’s “compassion and sympathy” to help millions of Afghans in desperate need of help , This is a top Taliban leader said in a rare interview.

Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi also told The Associated Press that the Taliban government wants good relations with all countries and has no issue with the United States. He urged Washington and other nations to release upward of $10 billion in funds that were frozen when the Taliban took power Aug. 15, following a rapid military sweep across Afghanistan and the sudden, secret flight of U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani.

“Sanctions against Afghanistan would … not have any benefit,” Muttaqi said Sunday, speaking in his native Pashto during the interview in the sprawling pale brick Foreign Ministry building in the heart of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

“Making Afghanistan unstable or having a weak Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone,” said Muttaqi, whose aides include employees of the previous government as well as those recruited from the ranks of the Taliban.

Muttaqi acknowledged that the Taliban’s restrictions on girls’ education and women in the workforce have made the world outrageous. In many parts of Afghanistan, since the Taliban took over, female high school students in grades 7-12 have not been allowed to attend school, and many female civil servants have been told to stay at home. Taliban officials said they need time to establish gender segregation arrangements in schools and workplaces to satisfy their harsh interpretation of Islam.

When they first came to power from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban banned girls and women from going to school and work, banned most entertainment and sports activities, and occasionally executed the death penalty in front of large crowds in the stadium, shocking the world.

But Muttaqi said that the Taliban have changed since the last time they took office. “We have made progress in administration and politics…in our interaction with the country and the world. With each passing day, we will gain more experience and make more progress,” he said.

Muttaqi said that under the leadership of the new Taliban government, girls in 10 of the country’s 34 provinces go to school until the 12th grade. The operation of private schools and universities is unhindered. Women who have worked in the health sector before 100% return to society. Work. “This shows that we are committed to women’s participation in principle,” he said.

He claimed that the Taliban did not target their opponents, but declared an amnesty and provided some protection. He said that the leaders of the former government were not threatened to live in Kabul, even though most of them had fled.

Last month, the international organization Human Rights Watch issued a report stating that the Taliban immediately killed or forcibly disappeared more than 100 former police and intelligence officials in four provinces. However, there are no reports of large-scale retaliation.

Muttaqi charged the Afghan government that took power after the U.S-led coalition ousted the Taliban regime in 2001 carried out widespread revenge attacks against the Taliban. Hundreds disappeared or were killed, causing thousands to flee to the mountains, he said. The Taliban were ousted for harboring al Qaida and Osama bin Laden who masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Muttaqi insisted poverty and the dream of a better life — not fear — drove thousands of Afghans to rush the Kabul airport in mid-August in hopes of getting to America. The crush of people had generated searing images of men clinging to a departing American C-17 aircraft, while others fell to the ground as the wheels retracted.

He said the Taliban have made mistakes in their first months in power and that “we will work for more reforms which can benefit the nation.” He did not elaborate on the mistakes or possible reforms.

Muttaqi pushed back against comments by U.S. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie who told the AP last week that the al-Qaida extremist group has grown slightly inside Afghanistan since U.S. forces left in late August. McKenzie is Washington’s top military commander in the Middle East.

In a February 2020 deal that spelled out the terms of a U.S. troop withdrawal, the Taliban had promised to fight terrorism and deny terrorist groups a safe haven.

Muttaqi said on Sunday that the Taliban had complied with this pledge and promised not to attack US and NATO forces in the final phase of the withdrawal that ended at the end of August.

“Unfortunately, there are (always) allegation against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan , but there is no proof,” said Muttaqi. “If McKenzie has any proof, he should provide it. With confidence I can say that this is a baseless allegation.”

Meanwhile, Islamic State militants have stepped up attacks on Taliban patrols and religious minorities in the past four months. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan has targeted Shiite mosques in the provincial capitals of Kunduz and Kandahar, and carried out frequent attacks on Taliban vehicles.

Muttaqi however said the Taliban have gained the upper hand in recent weeks, saying there had not been a major attack in the last month. Washington’s ability to track IS activities in Afghanistan has been handicapped since the troop withdrawal.

Muttaqi said he does not envision cooperating with the U.S. in the battle against the Islamic State group.

However, he did express hope that with time, “America will slowly, slowly change its policy toward Afghanistan” as it sees evidence that a Taliban-ruled country able to stand on its own is a benefit to America.

“My last point is to America, to the American nation: You are a great and big nation and you must have enough patience and have a big heart to dare to make policies on Afghanistan based on international rules and relegation, and to end the differences and make the distance between us shorter and choose good relations with Afghanistan.”

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