KABUL: Afghanistan's new foreign minister said that the Taliban governing the country remain committed to not allowing militants to use their territory to launch attacks. But he refused to say when or if the country's new rulers would create a more inclusive government.
Without other political factions and women serving in the government, the Taliban seem unlikely to win international recognition as the legitimate leaders of Afghanistan. And without such recognition, the Afghan state is unable to tap billions of its funds frozen abroad, leaving it virtually bankrupt at a time of immense humanitarian need.
The Taliban received sharp criticism last week after they announced a Cabinet made up entirely of men from their movement including several on international terror lists. Taliban leaders previously had promised broader representation.
Amir Khan Mutaqi, a longtime Taliban negotiator named as foreign minister, appeared on Tuesday at his first news conference since becoming a member of the interim government. But he gave little indication of whether the Taliban would bend to international pressure.
Asked if the Taliban would include women or ethnic and religious minorities in the government, Mutaqi answered, "We will decide in time" but did not offer a commitment.
He underscored that the current government is ruling on an interim basis 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 a permanent government.
"We are taking everything step by step. We have not said how long this Cabinet will last," Mutaqi said.
After the withdrawal of Western troops and the Taliban's sudden return to power last month, the United States and its allies have used money, potential recognition and warnings of isolation to pressure them away from repeating their repressive rule of the 1990s.
At that time, the Taliban imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law including severe restrictions on women and minorities.
Mutaqi, responding on Tuesday to a question about the eventual holding of elections, replied that other countries must not interfere in Afghanistan's internal issues, a comment he repeated several times during the news conference.
However, the foreign minister did give the first confirmation from the interim government of the new Cabinet's intention to honor a deal the Taliban reached with the United States last year.
Under the deal, which opened the way for the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban promised to break ties with al-Qaeda and other militant groups and ensure they don't threaten other countries from the movement's territory.
"We will not allow anyone or any groups to use our soil against any other countries," Mutaqi said.
While ruling Afghanistan during the late 1990s, the Taliban sheltered al-Qaeda and its chief, Osama bin Laden. Their refusal to hand over bin Laden and other al-Qaeda members after the September 11 terror attacks prompted the United States to launch a military assault, which ousted the Taliban and led to a 20-year war in Afghanistan.
Many experts remain skeptical that the Taliban have broken ties with al-Qaeda since they reached the 2020 withdrawal deal with the Trump administration. But al-Qaeda has been significantly weakened and Washington has made clear its top priority is preventing Islamic State attacks from Afghanistan.