By Erin Viner
During an interview with Russia’s Sputnik news agency, Taliban Spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that normalized relations were even possible with the United States, which had backed the 20-year-old government from which the extremist group swiftly overpowered to seize control of Afghanistan as President Joe Biden was completing the withdrawal of troops 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,” said Shaheen.
He went on to expressly rule out diplomatic ties between the Taliban and the Jewish State.
“Of course, we won’t have any relation with Israel,” said the spokesman, underscoring, “We want to have relations with other countries – but Israel is not among these countries.”
The fundamentalist Islamist Taliban, which has a history of supporting the al-Qaeda terror group, frequently issues threats against Israel and imbues its propaganda with anti-Israel rhetoric.
Shaheen was visibly angered last month after he claimed he was duped into granting a request for an interview with over video with journalist Roi Kais at the Israeli broadcast network Kan. While Kais stated the name of the broadcaster, he did now mention that he or the company were Israeli.
“I do many interviews with journalists every day after the falling of provincial centers of Afghanistan and the capital Kabul to the Islamic Emirate,” Shaheen said in a written statement, adding that, “Some journalists maybe masquerading but I haven’t done interview with any one introducing himself he is from an Israeli media.”
Many members of the new interim government named by the Taliban on Tuesday are wanted for terror-related offenses.
Acting Afghan Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund is on a United Nations sanctions list for having served as Foreign Minister during the Taliban’s brutal previous 1996-2001 regime. Deputy Premier is Taliban co-founder, who the US pressured Pakistan to release so he could participate in negotiations on the pullout of American soldiers. New Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani belongs to an Afghan guerrilla insurgent group founded by his father in the family’s name that joined the Taliban in 1995. The US the designated “Haqqani” a terrorist network, and the new cabinet member is on the FBI’s most wanted list over involvement in suicide attacks and links to al-Qaeda, with a multi-million-dollar reward for information leading to his capture.
While expressing concern over the roster of appointees, the US has adopted a cautious wait-and-see approach with regard to Afghanistan’s new leaders.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that the last remaining members of Afghanistan’s tiny Jewish community have left the country.
62-year-old Zebulon Simentov and 29 of his neighbors, nearly all of them women and children, joined an exodus of tens of thousands of Afghans who have fled since the Taliban raged through the country last month.
The discovery of Hebrew manuscripts unearthed in northern Afghanistan caves indicate a thriving Jewish community existed there at least 1,000 years ago. At least 40,000 Jews were living in the country in the late 19th century, many of whom were of Persian descent who sought refuge from forced conversion in neighboring Iran. The community’s decline began with mass immigration to Israel after it was re-founded in 1948.