Afghanistan’s Islamist Taliban government Wednesday criticized new U.S. sanctions against some of its leaders as an “impediment to the development” of ties between the two countries.
The reaction comes a day after the United States announced a new visa restriction policy as punishment for current or former Taliban leaders and others “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, repressing” Afghan women and girls through restrictive policies and violence.
“Such decisions can adversely affect bilateral relations,” a Taliban foreign ministry statement said. “All disputes should be resolved through diplomatic channels and decisions that do not serve the interest of the two sides should be reviewed,” it added.
The statement questioned the timing of the U.S. decision, saying it was announced after talks last week in Doha involving high-level officials of the two countries where “almost all important issues” were discussed in detail.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in unveiling the sanctions on Tuesday, said that immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.
Blinken called on other governments to join Washington in taking similar actions to collectively send a message to the Taliban that only a government that represents all Afghans and respects their human rights could be considered legitimate.
“As a grim example, for more than a year, Afghanistan remains the only country in the world where girls are systemically barred from attending school beyond the sixth grade, with no return date in sight,” he said.
“Despite public assurances that it would respect the human rights of all Afghans, the Taliban has issued and enforced a series of policies or edicts that effectively bar women and girls in Afghanistan from full participation in public life, including access to secondary education and work in most industries,” Blinken said.
The Taliban regained control of the country in August 2021 when U.S.-led international forces withdrew after 20 years of war with the then-insurgents.
The hardline group has since barred girls from returning to secondary schools across most of Afghanistan but women are allowed to attend public and private universities.
Foreign governments have not yet recognized the new government in Afghanistan over human rights and terrorism-related concerns.
The Taliban defend their policies, saying they are in line with Afghan culture and Islamic injunctions. They also say the male-only government represents all Afghan groups and dismiss allegations of human rights abuses as Western media propaganda against the Islamist group.
While peace has returned to much of the war-torn South Asian nation over the past year, Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, known as ISIS-K, has stepped up terrorist attacks against members of the minority Shi’ite community and the Taliban, killing hundreds of people.
A powerful suicide bomb blast ripped through a packed school in the Afghan capital late last month, as students were preparing for university entry exams.
The United Nations says the bombing killed 53 people, mostly young women and girls, and injured scores of others.