Blinken: Biden Open to Working with Taliban if It ‘Upholds the Basic Rights of Its People’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken leaves after speaking during a briefing at the State Department on August 2, 2021, in Washington, DC. - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday renewed his vow of a "collective response" to Iran, which had warned adversaries against reprisals after Tehran was …
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American Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a CNN interview on Sunday that the administration of President Joe Biden “can work with and recognize” a Taliban government in Afghanistan that respects women and “doesn’t harbor terrorists.”

The Taliban, the jihadist organization that ruled Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion of that country in 2001, completed its takeover of the country on Sunday, surrounding Kabul and negotiating the departure of the previous Afghan government. Ex-President Ashraf Ghani reportedly fled Sunday after delivering a bizarre televised speech in which he claimed to be working to regroup the Afghan military to fight the Taliban. Thousands of Afghan troops had deserted and fled into neighboring countries at the time of his claim.

The siege of Kabul arrived days before the planned complete departure of U.S. troops from the country, which Biden had scheduled to be completed by August 31. Under President Donald Trump, the White House had negotiated with the Taliban to leave the country by May 1, 2021, in exchange for the Taliban agreeing not to attack U.S. troops and agreeing to cut ties to international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda. Biden broke the deal in April, changing the deadline for withdrawal to September, then revising it to August. Taliban officials responded by asserting that the agreement no longer bound them, as Biden had broken it, and launched 22,000 attacks between April and July, according to the former Afghan government.

Blinken appeared on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday morning as news broke that Ghani had fled and Taliban fighters would take the streets of Kabul — but only, Taliban leaders insisted, to prevent looting and robbery. Host Jake Tapper asked Blinken, in the context of the Communist Party of China extending Beijing’s friendship to the new Taliban government, if a situation existed in which the Biden administration would accept the legitimacy of a Taliban government in Kabul.

“A future Afghan government that upholds the basic rights of its people and that doesn’t harbor terrorists is a government we can work with and recognize,” Blinken said, according to the official State Department transcript of the conversation. “Conversely, a government that doesn’t do that — that doesn’t uphold the basic rights of its people, including women and girls; that harbors terrorist groups that have designs on the United States or allies and partners — certainly, that’s not going to happen.”

Blinken added that he did not think that the Taliban would receive “support from the international community.”

“Sanctions won’t be lifted, their ability to travel won’t happen if they’re not sustaining the basic rights of the Afghan people and if they revert to supporting or harboring terrorists who might strike us,” Blinken warned.

Despite the fact that Blinken laid out a series of preconditions for Biden to recognize the Taliban, Tapper responded that his answer “sounds like a no, you would never recognize them.”

Taliban officials have demonstrated keen interest in acknowledging the demands of the international community, particularly the West, for statements nominally accepting the importance of human rights to good governance. Speaking to the Associated Press on Sunday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that his bosses were working to construct an “open, inclusive Islamic government” now that they had returned to power, without elaborating.

Another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, promised to the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw last week that the Taliban “will not be violent” when it takes over the country.

“No, you may have seen some scenes where we are holding weapons during fights. Of course, when someone is in a fight with the enemy, they will be violent with them,” Mujahid said. “However, we will not be violent with our people.”

“People want us and they ask us to be with them. Everyone supports us, and we will give them all the rights specified in the Islamic sharia,” Mujahid said.

The Taliban is a radical Islamist terrorist organization that adheres to an extremely violent interpretation of the sharia, or Islamic law. Its prior rule in Afghanistan was characterized by the killing and torturing of civilians, and particularly brutalizing women, for “crimes” such as exposing their hair or going outside unattended. Reports from other territories that the Taliban previously conquered this summer in Afghanistan indicate that the jihadists have continued to attempt to enslave and torture women. One report revealed evidence that Taliban jihadists are going door-to-door in some Afghan neighborhoods abducting girls as young as 12 years old to be used as sex slaves.

In contrast to Blinken’s prediction that the international community would shun the Taliban, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday that the Communist Party “hopes that the Taliban can implement its previous commitments and ensure a smooth transition of power in Afghanistan.”

“China respects Afghan people’s right to decide their own destiny and future, and is willing to continue to develop friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan,” Hua said, appearing to fully accept the legitimacy of the Taliban government.

Similarly, the Russian government has expressed interest in working with the Taliban.

Russia’s special presidential representative for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, appeared to celebrate the fall of the Afghan government on Monday.

“When it comes to comparing the credibility of colleagues and partners, the Taliban has long looked to me a far more trustworthy partner than the puppet government in Kabul,” Kabulov said in an interview with Rossiya-24, a Russian cable news network. “We proceed from the assumption that the agreements must be honored. For the time being the Taliban honors the agreements concerning the security of our embassy and the embassies of our allies in Central Asia.”

Reports on Monday indicate that governments allied with the United States, not just its adversaries, are pursuing talks with the Taliban. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the United Kingdom is using an intermediary to discuss a potential pathway for London to recognize the Taliban, reports indicated Monday.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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