The Taliban has announced an all-male interim government for Afghanistan counter to advice from world powers for an inclusive government.
Germany, China and Japan have offered a lukewarm reception to the Taliban's provisional government in Afghanistan, following the group's lightning seizure of Kabul last month.
Taliban leaders filled all the top posts in Tuesday's government list — which had no outsiders and no women — while an associate of the group's founder was named prime minister and the interior minister figured on a US terrorism wanted list.
The structure of the new government runs counter to advice to the Taliban from world powers for an inclusive government, backing up its pledges of a more conciliatory approach that upholds human rights, if it sought peace and development.
Initial responses suggested that the new administration may struggle to win the international support the new leaders desperately need to avoid an economic meltdown. It includes Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is on the FBI’s most-wanted list, as interior minister.
READ MORE: Key figures in Taliban's new government
The UN notes that the “caretaker administration” announced by the Taliban does not include women. Durable peace & stability in #Afghanistan depends on inclusive governance, with meaningful participation of women & youth, & bringing together ethnic, religious & minority groups. pic.twitter.com/Z7qWFYQjec— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) September 8, 2021
Blinken to Taliban: Any legitimacy 'will have to be earned'
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that any legitimacy or international support for the Taliban “will have to be earned” after Afghanistan's new rulers announced an interim government that drew a deeply skeptical Western response.
The secretary of state and his German counterpart met at a US base in Germany that has become a key transit point for evacuees from Afghanistan. They hosted a virtual meeting of officials from 22 countries as well as NATO, the European Union and UN the day after the Taliban announced their all-male interim government.
Blinken said the new Afghan government “certainly does not meet the test of inclusivity and it includes people who have very challenging track records.”
“The Taliban seek international legitimacy and support,” Blinken told reporters. “Any legitimacy, any support will have to be earned, and we heard that across the board, from everyone participating in today's session.”
US engagement with the Taliban and a new government “will be for purposes of advancing the national interest” and those of partners, and “in ways that are fully consistent with our laws,” he added.
Blinken and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas pressed demands for the Taliban to allow Afghans to travel freely and to respect their basic rights, including women's. They also pushed the Taliban to ensure that Afghanistan is not used to launch attacks, refrain from reprisal attacks and allow humanitarian access.
Blinken said the US is still “assessing the announcement” and noted that the Taliban has billed it as a caretaker Cabinet. “We will judge it, and them, by its actions," he said.
Mass: Little reason for optimism
Maas said the make-up so far of the new government “is not the signal for more international cooperation.”
“It must be clear to the Taliban that international isolation cannot be in their interest,” Maas said. He added, however, that no one has an interest in turning their back on Afghanistan and the international community must use what possibilities it can to exert influence on the group.
As for formal diplomatic recognition, Maas said, “I don't see it at the moment.”
Voicing concern about the government's composition, German Foreign Minister Maas said he saw little reason for optimism about conditions in Afghanistan.
"The announcement of a transitional government without the participation of other groups, and yesterday's violence against demonstrators and journalists in Kabul, are not signals that give cause for optimism," he said.
Afghans who enjoyed major progress in education and civil liberties over the 20 years of US-backed government remain fearful of Taliban intentions and daily protests have continued since the Taliban takeover.
Maas said, however, that Germany was willing to keep talking to the Taliban in a bid to ensure more people were able to leave the country, hit by food shortages and a halt in international payments.
China is ready to maintain communication: Wang
China, which shares a border with Afghanistan, had urged the establishment of an "open and inclusive" government after the Taliban seized power, amid the chaos following the withdrawal of US troops.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in Beijing on Wednesday that China viewed the establishment of the new government as a necessary step towards reconstruction in Afghanistan.
"We hope the new Afghanistan authorities will listen broadly to people of all races and factions, so as to meet the aspirations of its own peoples and the expectations of the international community," Wang Wenbin told a daily briefing.
China was ready to maintain communication with the leaders of the new government, Wang added, in comments prompted by a query about whether Beijing would recognise the new government.
Japan says monitoring Taliban actions
In Tokyo, a top official said Japan was monitoring the actions of the Taliban and would keep up cooperation with the United States and other countries, while expressing concern over the safety of citizens in Afghanistan.
"Through various efforts, including practical dialogue with the Taliban, we are doing the utmost to ensure safety of Japanese nationals and for local staff who remain," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato.
He also promised support for Japanese who wanted to leave the south Asian nation.
Blinken, Maas meet at Ramstein Air Base
US Secretary of State Blinken conferred with his German counterpart and others on Wednesday about how to handle Afghanistan as the Taliban's announcement of an interim government line-up received a skeptical Western response.
Blinken met with German Foreign Minister Maas at Ramstein Air Base, a major US facility in Germany that has become a key gateway for people evacuated from Afghanistan. As of Wednesday, about 23,000 people had been flown from Ramstein to the US or other locations. There were about 11,200 people at the base and the nearby Rhine Ordnance Barracks awaiting onward travel.
I am profoundly impressed by the around-the-clock, lifesaving coordination at the Afghan Reception Center at @RamsteinAirBase. During my visit, I witnessed Americans and Germans working side-by-side to facilitate the safe transit of thousands of Afghan evacuees. pic.twitter.com/EAeRco6idd— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) September 8, 2021
The German Foreign Ministry said the two officials would host a virtual meeting with other foreign ministers and that more than 20 countries were expected.
It didn't identify them, but Maas said in a statement that they want to discuss a common approach to the Taliban “which also serves our interests: adherence to fundamental human rights, maintaining possibilities to leave (Afghanistan) and humanitarian access, and the fight against terror groups” such as Al Qaeda and Daesh.
The US State Department expressed concern that the Cabinet included only Taliban, no women and personalities with a troubling track record, but said the new administration would be judged by its actions.
Maas said that Germany is ready to provide humanitarian aid via the United Nations and will continue to speak to the Taliban to secure the departure from Afghanistan of former employees and others. He added that any commitment beyond that will depend on the Taliban’s behaviour.
The announcement came hours after Taliban fired their guns into the air to disperse protesters in the capital of Kabul and arrested several journalists, the second time in less than a week that heavy-handed tactics were used to break up a demonstration.
'Demands are not fulfilled' - Muhll
France’s Foreign Ministry said the international community’s demands are clear — among them breaking all links with terror groups and respect for human rights, particularly women’s rights.
“We can only note that these demands are not fulfilled,” ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in an online briefing.
“The actions are not in line with the words.”
Pakistan urges help to prevent humanitarian, economic crisis
Pakistan's foreign minister, meanwhile, urged the international community to help prevent a humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi was addressing a virtual meeting of foreign ministers from countries neighbouring Afghanistan. It was attended by his counterparts from China, Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Qureshi said that since Kabul’s takeover by the Taliban, “much dreaded bloodshed has not occurred,” and the prospect of a protracted conflict and civil war seems to have been averted.
He said that so far, a feared exodus of refugees has also not taken place.
The situation remains complex and fluid in Afghanistan, however, and it “requires discarding old lenses, developing new insights, and proceeding with a realistic and pragmatic approach,” he said.
EU says provisional Taliban government falls short of promises
The European Union voiced disapproval on Wednesday of the Taliban's provisional government, saying they had not kept a promise to include women and other religious groups.
"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 foreign policy service.
"Such inclusivity and representation is expected in the composition of a future transitional government, and as result of negotiations," he said in a statement.
Afghanistan: Worrying reports that Taliban are not complying w/ the international human rights obligations to which 🇦🇫 committed over the past decades, including the respect for fundamental freedoms without discrimination. Freedom of peaceful assembly must be guaranteed. https://t.co/kKtl3nDT03— Peter Stano (@ExtSpoxEU) September 8, 2021
A senior EU executive official also expressed wariness about the Taliban's provisional government, which includes people under United Nations sanctions and wanted by the United States, even as the bloc tries to show openness to the militants.
"The European Union is ready to continue to offer humanitarian assistance," European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic said, adding, however, that longer-term donor money depended on the Taliban upholding basic freedoms.
"We are looking very, very carefully at how the new government is behaving before engaging," he told a news conference following a meeting of EU commissioners.
Afghanistan faces the collapse of basic services and food and other aid is about to run out, the United Nations said on Tuesday, after the Taliban took control of the country on August 15 and the United States and Western powers withdrew.
More than half a million people have been displaced internally in Afghanistan this year.