The foreign minister in Afghanistan’s new Taliban-run cabinet has said the government is committed to its promise not to allow militants to use its territory to attack others.
In his first press conference since the Taliban formed an interim government a week ago, Molavi Amir Khan Muttaqi would not give a timeframe for how long the government would be in place, or whether it would eventually be opened up to other factions, minorities or women.
When asked about the possibility of elections, Mr Muttaqi said other countries should not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal issues.
Under a deal reached last year with the United States, the Taliban promised to break ties with al Qaida and other militant groups and ensure they do not threaten other countries from its territory.
Asked about the deal, Mr Muttaqi replied: “We will not allow anyone or any groups to use our soil against any other countries.”
This marks the first time a member of the new government has confirmed its commitment to the promise.
The first press conference by Mr Muttaqi since the Taliban formed an interim government a week ago comes as governments around the world – and many Afghans at home – are searching for indications on how it will rule Afghanistan after sweeping out the US-backed government and taking over Kabul a month ago.
The US and its allies have pushed the Taliban not to repeat its harsh rule of the 1990s, when it monopolised power and imposed its harsh interpretation of Islamic law, including severe restrictions on women and minorities.
During its rule in the 1990s, the Taliban sheltered al Qaida and its chief Osama bin Laden.
The group’s refusal to hand them over after the September 11 terror attacks in the United States prompted the US to launch its assault on Afghanistan, ousting the Taliban and leading to the ensuing 20-year war.
The Taliban, who swept into Kabul and toppled the US-backed government on August 15, have come under heavy international criticism after they formed an interim government made up entirely of Taliban members, despite previous promises to be more inclusive.
When asked if the Taliban would include women or minorities in the government, Mr Muttaqi said: “We will decide in time,” without making a commitment.
He underlined the government’s interim status, and said that when a permanent one is formed “we will take into account what the people want”. He would not give a timetable for installing a permanent government.
“We are taking everything step by step. We have not said how long this cabinet will last,” Mr Muttaqi said.
Governments around the world have said recognition will not take place until a more inclusive government is put in place in Afghanistan.
The United Nations now faces a dilemma as it prepares to begin the UN General Assembly. Several of the Taliban ministers, including Mr Muttaqi and the prime minister, are on the UN’s so-called black list of international terrorists and terrorist financers.
Mr Muttaqi urged the UN to move quickly to de-list the leaders, saying: “The list has no logic.”
The cabinet also includes Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also on the UN’s black list as well as wanted by the FBI for questioning in connection with attacks in the Afghan capital during the last two decades.
When the Taliban last ruled, the UN refused to recognise their government and instead gave the UN seat to the previous, warlord-dominated government of president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011.
This time around it is not clear whether the seat would be saved for president Ashraf Ghani, who fled the capital after the Taliban had reached the gates of Kabul.
His departure shocked the political leadership in Kabul, including former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the government’s chief negotiator, who were still negotiating with the Taliban to form an interim government.
Mr Muttaqi said the Taliban-led government seeks good relations with nations around the world but insisted they must not interfere in its affairs.
He also called for international donors to send more aid, saying: “Afghanistan is poor. It needs all the help the world can give”, and promising this would be distributed without corruption.
He urged international banking institutions to return to Afghanistan to continue their projects, and said all of Afghanistan’s embassies operating abroad have been told to continue their operations.
The spokesman promised Afghans would be allowed to leave the country and said it was the job of the Taliban government to provide passports to its citizens.