US 'concerned' by Taliban govt makeup but will look at 'actions'

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announces an acting cabinet for the new government during a news conference in Kabul on Sept 7, 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

DOHA (AFP) - The United States said it was concerned about members of a Taliban government named Tuesday (Sept 7) but said it would judge it by actions, including letting Afghans leave freely.

"We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women. We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals," a State Department spokesperson said as Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks on Afghanistan in Qatar. "We understand that the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet. However, we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words."

The State Department renewed its call on the Taliban to offer safe passage to US citizens as well as Afghans looking to leave.

Blinken earlier Tuesday in Qatar said that the Taliban were cooperating so long as travelers had travel documents, amid charges from Republican lawmakers and activists that charter planes were stuck.

The Taliban named as their acting prime minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, who is on a UN sanctions list and served in the Islamists' brutal 1996-2001 regime.

His deputy will be Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban who was released by Pakistan under US pressure to take part in negotiations on the withdrawal of US troops.

And the interior minister will be Sirajuddin Haqqani, part of a US-designated terrorist group, despite a US offer of millions of dollars for information leading to his arrest.

"We have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government," the State Department spokesperson said.

The Taliban swiftly toppled the 20-year-old Western-backed government last month just as President Joe Biden was completing a pullout to end America's longest war.

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