Washington ‘reviewing’ its engagement with the Taliban

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Monday that Washington is reviewing its approach to the Taliban following the recent “draconian edicts” and “repugnant actions” and will do what it can “to see to it that these edicts are reversed”.

Addressing a press briefing on Monday, Price said: “We’ve been reviewing our approach and engagement with the Taliban in the context of many of the human rights violations, the draconian edicts, the repugnant actions that we’ve seen from the Taliban in recent weeks and in recent months.”

“I’m just not in a position to detail where we are in that process, but I can tell you we are actively evaluating with allies and partners the appropriate next steps,” he said.

Referring to the continuous restrictions imposed on women and girls and the reports of human rights violations by the Taliban, Price said Washington has been clear that there will be costs for the Taliban for these actions.

“Absolutely everything remains on the table. And we’re looking at a range of options that will allow us to maintain our position as – principled position as the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan – again, that’s funding that goes directly to the Afghan people – while also doing everything we can to prevent the humanitarian situation from deteriorating even further. These responses take some time,” he said.

Price also said the US has gone to great lengths to continue to be the world’s leading humanitarian provider to the people of Afghanistan in a way that funding doesn’t flow through the coffers of the Taliban. “We’ve provided about $1.1 billion worth of humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, not to the Taliban, not to any entity purporting to represent or to serve as the Government of Afghanistan for that very reason.”

Referring to the Afghan Trust Fund, which controls $3.5 billion of the country’s frozen foreign reserves, Price said the purpose of it is to establish “broader macroeconomic stability” for the people of Afghanistan “but certainly not to support the Taliban in any way.”
He said “the human – humanitarian and human rights communities, there’s no question, are facing extremely difficult options as they strive to help those in dire need while also remaining neutral, impartial, and independent in their provision of support to the Afghan people.”

He said as a result of these edicts, men are not allowed to enter women-headed households, NGOs cannot reach most of the most vulnerable inside of Afghanistan, including in women-run households and mothers who must maintain adequate nutrition for their newborn babies without female workers present.

“As of earlier this month, about 83 percent of organizations operating in Afghanistan have suspended or reduced their operations because they came to the conclusion that they could not do their work under these new edicts. This is unacceptable to us, but more importantly to the international community, because it imperils some 28 million Afghans who need this humanitarian assistance to survive, and especially women and children, those who are especially vulnerable.

“So we’re firmly committed to helping alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people. And as I mentioned before, we’ve been the world’s leading humanitarian provider – $1.1 billion in assistance since August of 2021 to provide critical aid. And I have no doubt that we’ll continue to do everything we can to support the weighty humanitarian needs of the Afghan people.”

Price however reiterated that the money being sent into the country is “not flowing to or through the Taliban. It is being administered by NGO partners on the ground – or I should say it has been administered by NGO partners on the ground, and I say ‘has’ because of the challenge we’re facing now, these draconian edicts on the part of the Taliban, including an edict propagated on Christmas Eve of last year that NGOs couldn’t work with women, had to work with men.

“Of course that is an unsustainable obligation, restriction on the part of many international NGOs, and we’ve seen many international NGOs come to the conclusion that they’re just not in a position to continue providing this aid to the Afghan people.

“We’re going to do what we can to see to it that these edicts are reversed using the leverage that we have to seek to accomplish that, but also to do everything we can to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people in the context of these restrictions and edicts,” he said.