Taliban say willing to establish relations with all nations except Israel

Spokesman for extremist group that took over Afghanistan says it wants ties with all countries in the region, and even willing to cooperate with US, but not Israel

In this March 19, 2021 file photo, Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman gestures while speaking during a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia.  (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
In this March 19, 2021 file photo, Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman gestures while speaking during a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)

The Taliban are willing to establish ties with all countries except for Israel, a spokesman said Tuesday as the extremist group announced its new government after taking control of Afghanistan.

Spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Russia’s Sputnik news that The Taliban were willing to work with the US after they swiftly toppled the 20-year-old Western-backed government last month just as President Joe Biden was completing a pullout to end America’s longest war.

“Yes, of course, in a new chapter if America wants to have a relation with us, which could be in the interest of both countries and both peoples, and if they want to participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, they are welcome”, Shaheen said.

However, there was no chance for ties with Israel.

“Of course, we won’t have any relation with Israel. We want to have relations with other countries, Israel is not among these countries,” Shaheen said.

Last month, Shaheen caused some surprise when he gave an interview to Israel’s Kan public broadcaster; however, he later explained he had been duped into doing so.

Shaheen, who has been giving interviews in English from Qatar since the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, said he had no idea that he was speaking to someone from an Israeli news organization. The Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group, has a history of supporting al-Qaeda, which routinely makes threats against Israel and uses anti-Israel rhetoric in its propaganda.

When Shaheen spoke over video with journalist Roi Kais at Kan, the Israeli broadcaster, Kais named his network but did not tell Shaheen that he or it was Israeli.

Kan’s interview circulated widely, eliciting surprise that Shaheen consented to speak to an Israeli. But several hours after it aired, Shaheen tweeted that he hadn’t understood who he was speaking to.

“I do many interviews with journalists every day after the falling of provincial centers of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul to the Islamic Emirate,” he wrote. “Some journalists maybe masquerading but I haven’t done interview with any one introducing himself he is from an Israeli media.”

The Taliban on Tuesday named a provisional government, including several wanted for terror offenses.

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)

The Taliban named as their acting prime minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, who is on a UN sanctions list and served in the Islamists’ brutal 1996-2001 regime.

His deputy will be Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban who was released by Pakistan under US pressure to take part in negotiations on the withdrawal of US troops.

And the interior minister will be Sirajuddin Haqqani, part of a US-designated terrorist group, despite a US offer of millions of dollars for information leading to his arrest.

The United States said it was concerned about members of a Taliban government named Tuesday but said it would judge it by actions, including letting Afghans leave freely.

“We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women. We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals,” a State Department spokesperson said as Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks on Afghanistan in Qatar.

“We understand that the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet. However, we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words.”

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

The State Department renewed its call on the Taliban to offer safe passage to US citizens as well as Afghans looking to leave.

Blinken earlier Tuesday in Qatar said that the Taliban were cooperating so long as travelers had travel documents, amid charges from Republican lawmakers and activists that charter planes were stuck.

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