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Blinken says the Taliban will have to earn its legitimacy

Top US diplomat says new hardline Afghan cabinet will be judged by its actions; German FM says international community expects insurgent group to uphold human rights

Taliban soldiers walk towards Afghans shouting slogans, during an anti-Pakistan demonstration, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)
Taliban soldiers walk towards Afghans shouting slogans, during an anti-Pakistan demonstration, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

RAMSTEIN, Germany (AFP) — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Wednesday that the Taliban would have to earn legitimacy from the world, after talks with allies on how to present a united front to the hardline new government in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban seek international legitimacy. Any legitimacy — any support — will have to be earned,” Blinken told reporters at the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, after leading a 20-nation ministerial meeting on the Afghan crisis.

Standing alongside him, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the international community expected the Taliban to uphold human rights, including those of women, grant access to humanitarian aid, and allow those wishing to leave the country to do so.

Maas said he believed Wednesday’s talks were “the starting point for international coordination” on how to deal with the Taliban.

Among the countries that participated in the virtual meeting were European allies and historic Taliban backer Pakistan.

Blinken and Maas both criticized the caretaker government announced in Afghanistan on Tuesday, which has no women or non-Taliban members and includes an interior minister the United States wants to arrest on terrorism accusations.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass speaks during a press conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (out of frame) at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on September 8, 2021. (Olivier DOULIERY / POOL / AFP)

Blinken said the caretaker cabinet would be judged “by its actions,” while his German counterpart added he was “not optimistic.”

US officials have stressed that any official recognition of a Taliban government is far off.

Meeting refugees

Blinken’s stop in Ramstein was his second base visit in as many days, after he visited Qatar on Tuesday.

Thanks were offered thanks to US civilian and military officials behind one of history’s largest airlifts after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

At the entrance to a vast hangar where some of the 11,000 Afghans at Ramstein are awaiting flights to the United States, Blinken crouched down and showed photos on his telephone of his own children to the four-year-old son of Mustafa Mohammadi, an Afghan military veteran turned refugee who worked with the US embassy.

The stepson of a Holocaust survivor and longtime advocate for refugees, Blinken also toured a makeshift home for some of the children who have lost their parents.

“Many, many, many Americans are really looking forward to welcoming you and having you come to the United States,” he said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with a child as he meets with an Afghan refugee family outside Hangar 5 for evacuation operations at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on September 8, 2021. (Olivier DOULIERY / POOL / AFP)

Hanging on the walls were artwork by children, including a picture of a girl on a cliff beneath a deep-blue sky with a broken heart and a message in English, “Say to my Mom I miss you.”

Seeking international pressure

The United States and its allies evacuated some 123,000 people, mostly Afghans who fear Taliban retribution, in the final days of the 20-year US war that President Joe Biden ended last month.

But US officials acknowledge that many more remain and say that the Taliban have agreed to let them leave.

Blinken vowed to press the Taliban to allow charter flights out of Afghanistan after criticism the US administration was not doing enough to help those still stranded.

“We are working to do everything in our power to support those flights and to get them off the ground,” Blinken said.

A member of the Taliban Fateh, a “special forces” unit, stands guard outside the US embassy in Afghanistan displaying a Taliban flag in the outer concrete wall in Kabul on September 8, 2021. (Aamir QURESHI / AFP)

Germany, like many US allies, had celebrated Biden’s victory over Donald Trump and the new administration’s stated emphasis on working with the rest of the world.

But even some close allies have been critical over how Biden ended the 20-year war in Afghanistan, which led to the Western-backed government crumbling within days.

Armin Laschet, the leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling party and candidate to succeed her, described the Afghanistan mission as “the biggest debacle” in NATO’s history.

Biden has long favored pulling out of Afghanistan, arguing that the US-led NATO mission had achieved its core goal of accountability for the September 11 attacks 20 years ago this week and that the United States should not invest further blood or treasure in propping up a weak government.

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