Taliban seek ties with U.S., other former enemies; $10B in frozen assets may be at stake

Officials with Afghanistan’s newly reinstalled Taliban regime say they would like to improve relations with the United States and other former enemies as a means of improving the lot of their citizens.

In a rare interview, Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told The Associated Press that the country’s rulers have committed in principle to providing education and jobs to women and girls, which is a major difference from when they were previously in power before the U.S.-led invasion in October 2001 weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In addition, the Taliban regime is seeking “mercy and compassion” from the world so the country’s leaders can provide for millions of desperate citizens.

Muttaqi said that his government does not have or want issues with the U.S. while asking for Washington and other nations to release roughly $10 billion in funds that were frozen after the Taliban seized control in mid-August after rapidly sweeping away government forces across the country ahead of a secret escape flight out of the country by U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani.

“Sanctions against Afghanistan would … not have any benefit,” said the foreign minister on Sunday in his native Pashto from the Foreign Ministry building in the Afghan capital.

“Making Afghanistan unstable or having a weak Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone,” said Muttaqi, whose staff includes members of the previous government in addition to some who were recruited from the Taliban ranks.

The minister went on to say he understood that much of the world was angered by the Taliban’s imposition of education restrictions on girls as well as women in the workforce. In much of the country, girls between the ages of seven and 12 have not been allowed back into school since after the Taliban regained control, while many women who worked as civil servants have also been told to remain at home. Taliban officials have said they need some time to make arrangements to separate men and women in workplaces in order to fully implement their strict version of Islam.

When the group first ruled Afghanistan from the mid-1990s to 2001, they banned girls and women from schools and jobs and banned most sports and entertainment as well though they would occasionally carry out executions in front of big crowds.

However, Muttaqi said that the Taliban has since changed.

“We have made progress in administration and in politics … in interaction with the nation and the world. With each passing day we will gain more experience and make more progress,” he told the AP.

He then said that under the new regime, girls through the 12th grade are going to school in 10 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, while private schools and universities are being allowed to operate without interference. He also said that 100 percent of women who worked before in health care are now back on the job.

“This shows that we are committed in principle to women participation,” he said.

After commenting on some other issues, Muttaqi had a final “point” for the U.S.

“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,” he said.

Jon Dougherty


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