Top US diplomat criticises new Afghan government but says administration’s engagement with the Taliban will continue.
Afghanistan’s new acting prime minister, in an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, has called on former officials who fled when the Taliban seized power last month to return to the country, saying the group “will guarantee their security and safety”.
Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund also said on Wednesday that the caretaker government would guarantee the security of diplomats, embassies and humanitarian relief institutions, stressing that the group wanted to establish positive and strong relations with countries in the region and beyond.
Akhund, a close associate and political adviser to the late Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban and its first supreme leader, said the movement’s leaders faced “a great responsibility and test” towards the Afghan people.
“We have suffered huge losses in money and lives for this historical moment in the history of Afghanistan,” Akhund added. “The stage of bloodshed, killing and contempt for people in Afghanistan has ended, and we have paid dearly for this.”
Akhund also reiterated the Taliban’s promise of amnesty for anyone who has worked alongside the United States and the administration it backed following its 2001 invasion.
“No one will be able to prove that he was subjected to revenge. And in such tense circumstances, it is easy to do what you want. But the movement is disciplined and controls its gunmen. And, we have not harmed anyone because of his previous actions,” he said.
“Therefore, I assure the Islamic nation, especially the Afghan people, that we want all the good, the causes for success and welfare, and we seek to establish an Islamic system,” he added, asking “everyone to participate with us in this blessed project”.
His comments came a day after the Taliban announced its interim government, which is formed exclusively of its own members and close associates and has excluded women and other political factions from holding any position.
Of the 33 roles announced, 14 are former Taliban officials during its previous 1996-2001 rule, five are former Guantanamo detainees, and the remaining 12 are officials from the second generation of the movement.
The makeup of the Taliban’s Afghan government has met criticism, with Afghans in Kabul noting the complete lack of women and poor ethnic representation as the majority of acting ministers and their deputies are Pashtun despite Taliban promises of an “inclusive” government.
While China and Uzbekistan have expressed their willingness to cooperate with the Taliban, the European Union and the United Nations have expressed their disapproval of the composition of the new Afghan government. The US said it would have to be judged on its actions but noted that a transitional government that does not include other groups will not bode well for the future stability of the country.
The Taliban took over the capital, Kabul, on August 15 after a lightning-fast offensive that saw its fighters seize a host of other cities, meeting little or no resistance as the US and NATO withdrew their troops.
On Tuesday, supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada, in his first public statement since the seizure of Kabul, said the Taliban was committed to all international laws, treaties and commitments that were not in conflict with Islamic law.
“I assure all the countrymen that the figures will work hard towards upholding Islamic rules and Sharia law in the country,” Akhunzada said.
He told Afghans the new leadership would ensure “lasting peace, prosperity and development”, adding that “people should not try to leave the country”.
“The Islamic Emirate has no problem with anyone,” he said. “All will take part in strengthening the system and Afghanistan and in this way, we will rebuild our war-torn country.”