Expect to have real, inclusive govt in Afghanistan: Blinken

Washington: The US and the international community expect the Taliban in Afghanistan to form an inclusive government with representations from different communities and fulfil its commitments like countering terrorism, respecting the rights of women and minorities and not to engage in reprisal, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

Blinken’s remarks came ahead of an expected announcement by the Taliban on the formation of a new government in Afghanistan.

As we’ve said and as countries around the world have said, there is an expectation that any government that emerges now will have some real inclusivity, and that it will have non-Talibs in it who are representative of different communities and different interests in Afghanistan, Blinken told reporters at a news conference, ahead of his important visit to Doha where the political office of the Taliban is based.

We will see what, in fact, emerges, but I have to tell you that as important as what the government looks like is, more important still is what any government does. And that’s what we’re really looking at. We’re looking at what actions, what policies any new Afghan government pursues. That’s what matters the most, Blinken said on Friday.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan last month at lightning speed as the US withdrew its troops from the country. The US withdrew all of its service members from Afghanistan on Tuesday, ending its military engagement in the country after 20 years of war.

“The expectation is to see inclusivity in government, but ultimately the expectation is to see a government that makes good on commitments that the Taliban have made, particularly in freedom of travel, not allowing Afghanistan to be used as a launching ground for terrorism directed at the US or any of the allies and partners, upholding the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities, and not engaging in reprisals,” Blinken said.

These are the things that we’re looking at. And, again, not just us, many countries around the world, he said.

The US, Blinken said, is committed to looking at everything done from day one through the present and draw lessons from it.

I think that there also needs to be, including across the State Department, a look back at the entire 20 years to understand the entire course of this war and engagement with Afghanistan and to ask the right questions and to learn the right lessons from that, he said.

The Biden administration has withheld officially recognising the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan but has engaged in close consultations with representatives in Doha, Qatar, and on the ground in Kabul.

Blinken said America’s diplomacy with allies and partners continues to intensify.

That diplomacy has already produced a statement signed by more than 100 countries and the UN Security Council resolution that makes clear the international community’s expectations…, he said.

Blinken will be travelling to Qatar and Germany to hold meetings to intensify diplomacy with its friends and allies on the current evolving situation in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, I’ll be heading to Doha where I’ll meet with Qatari leaders to express our deep gratitude for all that they’re doing to support the evacuation effort. I’ll also have a chance to meet with Afghans, including our locally employed staff from the Embassy in Kabul, who are now safely in Doha preparing for their journey to the United States, he said.

From there, Blinken will be heading to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where he will have a chance to meet Afghans awaiting processing to head to the US and the Americans who are staffing that effort.

I’ll also meet with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany, and we’ll hold a ministerial meeting on Afghanistan with him live and then virtually with other partners that’ll include more than 20 countries that all have a stake in helping to relocate and resettle Afghans and in holding the Taliban to their commitments, he said.

Later, Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Dean Thompson told reporters that Blinken has no plans to meet the Taliban leadership in Doha.

There’s currently no plans to do any meetings with the Taliban in Doha. This is very much focused on our relationship with Qatar, thanking them for the incredible support that they’ve given, as well as on the German side. That’ll be a fundamental message throughout the trip, he said.

The US, he said, is watching very carefully and closely the evolving developments in Afghanistan.

I think it’s too early to make a firm judgment. Reports that we receive of violations of basic human rights and particularly reports about restrictions on women, girls, anything of that nature is of great concern and something we would definitely continue to raise, he said.

At the same time, I would note that there was cooperation with the Taliban in order to affect the huge operation of the last few weeks, and so I think as we’ve said, the Taliban has made some good statements or some positive statements is a better way to say it but their actions are what is going to matter, he said.

We are going to continue to really assess that. And I think even more broadly than that is they are not just the actions of any one individual but their ability to ensure that across the country they live up to the commitments that they’ve made, Thompson said.