EU criticises Taliban over line-up for Afghan government

Afghanistan updates

The EU has criticised the Taliban’s choices for Afghanistan’s new government after the Islamist group named ministers whose inclusion raised doubts over its willingness to meet international conditions for recognition and humanitarian aid.

The Taliban announced a caretaker government on Tuesday that included several leaders targeted by UN sanctions and some people on the FBI’s most wanted list. The line-up disappointed western powers, which are trying to avoid completely isolating the Taliban, as done during its rule in the 1990s before the 20-year US-led occupation of Afghanistan.

Brussels said on Wednesday that the ministerial appointments revealed by the Taliban did not appear to meet its calls for an inclusive government.

“It does not look like the inclusive and representative formation in terms of the rich ethnic and religious diversity of Afghanistan we hoped to see and that the Taliban were promising over the past weeks,” said Peter Stano, spokesperson for the EU’s diplomatic arm.

“Such inclusivity and representation is expected in the composition of a future transitional government and as result of negotiations,” he added.

Brussels has said an inclusive Afghan government is a requirement for any engagement with the Taliban-led administration.

The UK has also cast doubt on the line-up. “Afghanistan needs inclusive politics that properly represent the country’s diversity and represent all of its communities, including women. We will judge the Taliban by its actions, not its words,” the UK Foreign Office said.

The US and Germany are due to host an international meeting on Wednesday to discuss an approach to the Taliban. US secretary of state Antony Blinken and German foreign minister Heiko Maas will meet at the US Ramstein military base in western Germany, along with representatives from 20 other countries who will participate online.

The discussions will cover how to ensure their demands are met in exchange for co-operation with the Taliban, including free movement for both Afghan and foreign nationals seeking to leave Afghanistan and human rights guarantees.

“We want to clarify how we can deal with the Taliban together, one that also serves our interests: the observance of basic human rights, the maintenance of travel options and humanitarian access and the fight against terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Isis,” Maas said in a statement.

The Taliban has said the government is temporary and would eventually be replaced with one that includes both political opponents and more representatives from ethnic groups outside of the dominant Pashtuns.

“Any further engagement will depend on the behaviour of the Taliban,” Maas said, adding that the current government line-up, as well as the Taliban’s violent break-up of protests in Kabul this week, “are not signs that give reason for optimism”.

Expectations in the international community that Abdul Ghani Baradar, who led negotiations with the US, would head the new government were not met. He was named deputy to Mohammad Hassan Akhund, an adviser to the late Taliban founder Mohammed Omar, who was tapped as acting prime minister.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, senior leader of the Haqqani network that is accused of attacks on US targets and for whose capture the FBI is offering a $5m bounty, will be interior minister.

Former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai and veteran politician Abdullah Abdullah were excluded, despite holding extensive talks with the Taliban leadership.

The US and its Nato allies completed a chaotic withdrawal last month in the wake of the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.

Maas has warned that Afghanistan is now facing a “threefold humanitarian crisis”. Droughts in part of the country have caused food shortages, while international aid funds have been suspended.

“If a new government is unable to keep state affairs going, there is a threat of economic collapse after the political one — with even more drastic humanitarian consequences,” Maas said.

Countries such as Iran, Russia and China are likely to be unnerved by the caretaker government and the potential for greater instability.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, posted on Twitter that he was concerned by the Taliban “ignoring the need for inclusive government, [permitting] foreign intervention and using military means instead of dialogue”.

Additional reporting by Andrew England in London and Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran

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