AP Interview: Taliban Seek Links to US, Other Ex-Enemies | World news

By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The new Afghan Taliban leadership has pledged in principle to the education and employment of girls and women, a marked departure from their former power, and seek “mercy and compassion Around the world to help millions of desperate Afghans in need, said a senior Taliban leader 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 problems with the United States. He urged Washington and other countries to release more than $ 10 billion in funds frozen when the Taliban seized power on August 15, following a rapid military raid through Afghanistan and the sudden flight and secret of US President Ashraf Ghani.

“Sanctions against Afghanistan would have … no benefit,” Muttaqi said on Sunday, speaking in his native Pashto during an interview in the sprawling pale brick building of the Foreign Ministry in the heart of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

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

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Muttaqi acknowledged the world’s outrage at the limitations imposed by the Taliban on the education of girls and women in the workforce. In many parts of Afghanistan, high school girls between grades 7 and 12 have not been allowed to attend school since the Taliban took power, and many female officials have been urged to stay in school. House. Taliban officials have said they need time to create gender-segregated arrangements in schools and workplaces that respond to their harsh interpretation of Islam.

When they first ruled from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban shocked the world by denying girls and women access to school and work, banning most entertainment and sports, and proceeding occasionally to performances in front of large crowds in sports stadiums.

But Muttaqi said the Taliban had changed since their last reign.

“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 said.

Muttaqi said that under the new Taliban government, girls go to school until grade 12 in 10 of the country’s 34 provinces, private schools and universities operate unhindered and 100 percent of women who previously worked in the health sector are back on the job. “This shows that we are committed in principle to the participation of women,” he said.

He claimed that the Taliban had not targeted their opponents, but instead announced a general amnesty and provided some protection. The leaders of the previous government are living without threat in Kabul, he said, although the majority have fled.

Last month, the international group Human Rights Watch released a report that the Taliban summarily killed or forcibly disappeared more than 100 former police and intelligence officials in four provinces. However, there have been no reports of large-scale retaliation.

Muttaqi accused the Afghan government that took power after the US-led coalition overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001 of carrying out widespread revenge attacks against the Taliban. Hundreds of people have disappeared or been killed, causing thousands to flee into the mountains, he said. Taliban ousted for harboring al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden who orchestrated the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States

Muttaqi insisted that poverty and the dream of a better life – not fear – caused thousands of Afghans to rush to Kabul airport in mid-August in the hope of surrendering in America. The crash of people had generated searing images of men clinging to a departing US C-17 plane, while others fell to the ground as the wheels retracted.

He said the Taliban made mistakes during their first months in power and that “we will work for more reforms that can benefit the nation.”

Muttaqi rebuffed comments from U.S. Marine General Frank McKenzie who told the PA last week that the extremist al-Qaida group had grown slightly in Afghanistan since the departure of U.S. forces in late August. McKenzie is Washington’s top military commander in the Middle East.

In a February 2020 agreement that set out the conditions for a withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban promised to fight terrorism and deny terrorist groups safe haven.

Muttaqi said on Sunday that the Taliban had kept that promise, along with a pledge not to attack US and NATO forces during the final phase of the withdrawal that ended in late August.

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

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

Muttaqi, however, said the Taliban had gained the upper hand in recent weeks, saying there had been no major attack last month. Washington’s ability to monitor IS activities in Afghanistan has been hampered since the troop withdrawal.

Muttaqi said he does not plan to cooperate with the United States in the battle against Islamic State.

However, he expressed the hope that over time, “America will slowly, slowly change its policy towards Afghanistan,” as it sees proof that a Taliban-ruled country capable of standing on its own is an advantage for America.

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

Copyright 2021 Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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