| 19 May 2024, Sunday |

France: Taliban’s reassuring words ‘do not fool anyone’

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that they will not be fooled by Taliban’s reassuring words about the future of Afghanistan

He said France did not recognize the Taliban government after the insurgents deposed the Nato-backed administration by force.

Afghanistan will remain a pariah state until the Taliban meet a series of European demands which are currently unfulfilled, he said.

These include handing power to a transitional government and making a firm break with Al Qaeda terrorists.

Taliban officials have sought to portray themselves in a moderate light by promising to respect women’s rights and deny shelter to terrorists.

But many Afghans and international powers are highly sceptical after the experience of the Taliban’s previous reign from 1996 to 2001.

Until the US-led invasion, strict religious laws were enforced against women and Al Qaeda used Afghanistan as a safe haven from which it plotted 9/11.

Despite reassurances to Afghans who helped Nato forces, there have been reports of Taliban fighters going door to door to track them down.

Mr Le Drian said Europe’s main demands were breaking with Al Qaeda, setting up a new government, respecting women’s rights, ensuring humanitarian access and allowing vulnerable Afghans to leave the country.

France wants a new transitional government to emerge from political talks in Doha, where the Taliban have an office.

“They know our requirements on this. Soothing speeches do not fool anyone,” he told the newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

“Today, none of these five points has been fulfilled. Without clear signals on these five demands, Afghanistan would become a pariah state.”

Aid agencies plan to stay in Afghanistan to deliver humanitarian help after Nato forces fully withdraw.

The US hoped to pull out the last of its troops by August 31, but this deadline is under increasing pressure as the rush to get people out continues.

Western troops are manning Kabul’s airport to rescue their citizens and vulnerable Afghans but Taliban checkpoints are complicating the position.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it would be “mathematically impossible” for evacuations to be finished by that date.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Saturday that the EU had operational contacts with the Taliban to arrange evacuations.

“But this is completely distinct and separated from political talks,” she said. “There’s no recognition of the Taliban.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a parliamentary debate that it would be a mistake for any country to unilaterally recognise the Taliban.

Countries with an interest in Afghanistan should “work towards common conditions about the conduct of the new regime” before recognising it, he said