State Department voices concerns over all-male Taliban government

The State Department on Tuesday expressed concerns over the makeup of the new interim Afghan government announced by the Taliban, including the lack of female leaders and the past actions of some of those appointed to top posts.

A State Department spokesperson said in a statement shared with The Hill that although the Taliban “has presented this as a caretaker cabinet,” the U.S. “will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words.” 

“We have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government,” the spokesperson added. 

The statement went on to note that the list of names announced by the Taliban earlier Tuesday “consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women.” 

The announced leaders come after the Taliban last month specifically called on women to join government offices in an apparent attempt to portray itself as a more moderate version of the group that previously enforced extreme laws on women and girls, including preventing them from going to school and barring them from leaving their homes unless they were accompanied by a man. 

The State Department also said Tuesday that it was “concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals.” 

Among the leaders announced Tuesday was the pick for acting interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is currently wanted by the FBI in connection with a 2008 attack on a Kabul hotel that left six people, including a U.S. citizen, dead. 

The FBI had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Haqqani’s arrest but increased the reward to $10 million later Tuesday. 

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the government would be led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, with group co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar serving as the interim government’s deputy leader. 

While the Biden administration has been in contact with Taliban leaders to coordinate the evacuation of American citizens and Afghan allies, the U.S. has not officially recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate ruling body since the militant group’s territorial takeover of the country last month. 

The State Department spokesperson added Tuesday that the Biden administration will “continue to hold the Taliban to their commitments to allow safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans with travel documents, including permitting flights currently ready to fly out of Afghanistan to agreed-upon onward destinations.” 

“We also reiterate our clear expectation that the Taliban ensure that Afghan soil is not used to threaten any other countries and allow humanitarian access in support of the Afghan people,” the statement added. “The world is watching closely.”

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