Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that executions of government officials and residents by the Taliban are “deeply troubling” as fighters belonging to the militant group sweep across Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of American forces.
“What we’re seeing on the ground in the last week is the Taliban making advances on district centers, challenging some provincial capitals,” Blinken said during a news conference in New Delhi after meeting with government officials.
“We’ve also seen these reports of atrocities committed by the Taliban in areas that it’s taken over that are deeply, deeply troubling, and certainly do not speak well to the Taliban’s intentions for the country as a whole,” Blinken said.
He said the US is committed to support the Afghan government, including the country’s security forces, and the diplomatic efforts seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
But he predicted the Taliban’s actions could isolate Afghanistan among the world’s nations.
“An Afghanistan that does not respect the rights of its people, an Afghanistan that commits atrocities against its own people, would become a pariah state. The Taliban says that it seeks international recognition, that it wants international support for Afghanistan,” Blinken said.
“Presumably it wants its leaders to be able to travel freely in the world, sanctions lifted, et cetera. Well, taking over the country by force and abusing the rights of its people is not the path to achieve those objectives,” he continued.
Human Rights Watch accused the Taliban of detaining hundreds of people when they took control of some districts near Kandahar and executed some of the residents, government officials and members of the police and army.
The international rights group said Taliban fighters have taken members of Afghanistan’s security forces from their homes and killed an unknown number of them.
In one case, it said the Taliban executed a man who previously worked with the police in plain view of his family.
“There are grave concerns that Taliban forces in Kandahar may commit further atrocities to retaliate against the government and security forces.” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a report.
“Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuses, but growing evidence of expulsions, arbitrary detentions, and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population,” she said.
President Biden announced in April that the US military would pullout of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, but earlier this month accelerated the deadline to complete the withdrawal by Aug. 31.
Some lawmakers warned the president that pulling US troops from the war-torn country would leave the Afghan army at the mercy of the Taliban – and he would be responsible for what happens next.
“When we fully withdraw, the devastation and the killings and women … fleeing across the border into Pakistan, President Biden is going to own these ugly images,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said earlier this month.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Biden was leaving Afghanistan ripe for a Taliban takeover.
“It is not in America’s interest for the Taliban to take over Afghanistan. If the Taliban take over part of Afghanistan, I fear that al Qaeda and ISIS will re-emerge and we will be paving a way for another 9/11,” Graham said.
A United Nations report said a record number of women and children were killed or wounded in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2021.
The country recorded a 47 percent increase in the number of casualties in the first half of this year, compared to last year — with 1,659 civilians killed and 3,254 wounded, according to the report.
Blinken, during the Wednesday presser, said the US will remain “engaged” in Afghanistan even as the US military packs up.
“We have not only a strong embassy there, but also important programs that continue to support Afghanistan economically, through development assistance, through security assistance. That remains. And we are very much engaged in the diplomacy of working to bring the parties together at the table for a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi met with a delegation of high-level Taliban officials in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin for talks – as the two sides try to warm ties ahead of the US pullout.
Wang said the US drawdown “reveals the failure of America’s policies and offers the Afghan people an important opportunity to stabilize and develop their own country.”
A readout from the Chinese foreign ministry said Wang expects the Taliban to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan.”
With Post wires