WASHINGTON: The Taliban will have to earn international legitimacy and support by meeting their commitments on freedom of travel, counterterrorism, respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities, and forming an inclusive government, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
Blinkin said the US will engage with the Taliban not on the basis of what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments.
"The Taliban seek international legitimacy and support. Our message is: any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned," Blinken said in an address to the nation hours after the US concluded its mission to Afghanistan early Tuesday.
"The Taliban can do that by meeting commitments and obligations - on freedom of travel; respecting the basic rights of the Afghan people, including women and minorities; upholding its commitments on counterterrorism; not carrying out reprisal violence against those who choose to stay in Afghanistan; and forming an inclusive government that can meet the needs and reflect the aspirations of the Afghan people," he said.
The US completed the withdrawal of its forces from Kabul, ending 20 years of war that culminated in the Taliban's return to power on August 15.
The Taliban insurgents stormed across the country, capturing all major cities in a matter of days, two weeks before the US was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly two-decade war.
Blinken said the US engaged with the Taliban during the past few weeks for evacuation operations.
"Going forward, any engagement with a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only: our vital national interests."
"If we can work with a new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests - including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a US citizen who has been held hostage in the region since early last year - and in a way that brings greater stability to the country and region and protects the gains of the past two decades, we will do it," he said.
"But we will not do it on the basis of trust or faith. Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments," Blinken added.
He said the US will continue its humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
"We believe we can accomplish far more - and exert far greater leverage - when we work in coordination with our allies and partners. Over the last two weeks, we've had a series of intensive diplomatic engagements with allies and partners to plan and coordinate the way ahead in Afghanistan," he said.
"I've met with the foreign ministers of NATO and the G7. I've spoken one-on-one with dozens of my counterparts. Last week, President Biden met with the leaders of the G7 countries. And Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman has been convening a group of 28 allies and partners from all regions of the world every other day," he said.
Going forward, he said, the US will coordinate closely with countries in the region and around the world as well as with leading international organisations, NGOs and the private sector.
"Our allies and partners share our objectives and are committed to working with us," Blinken said.