The Islamist Taliban government has harshly criticized U.S. President Joe Biden for calling Afghanistan a “God-forsaken place” and vowed to rebuild the war-ravaged country without any foreign support.
“Those making such remarks are doing so out of their frustration and envy for Afghanistan,” Chief Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference Saturday in Kabul. He went on to tout the return of peace and stability to the South Asian nation since the Taliban takeover, saying Afghans “are going about with their daily lives normally."
During a speech Friday in California, Biden praised war veterans for serving in Afghanistan, and repeatedly referred to the country as a “God-forsaken” area. He recounted his several trips to the Afghan war zone as a senator and vice president of the United States.
“A lot of you have been to Afghanistan. I’ve been to every part of it. It’s a God-forsaken place — it’s a God-forsaken place,” Biden said.
The U.S. president pulled out all American troops along with NATO allies in August 2021, after two decades of war with the then-Taliban insurgency. The withdrawal encouraged the Islamist group to immediately regain control of Afghanistan.
The Costs of War Project at Brown University estimates the longest military intervention in the U.S. history cost Washington about $2 trillion and took the lives of more than 2,400 American soldiers since 2001.
The United States and other Western partners immediately suspended financial assistance to Kabul after the Taliban seized power in mid-August last year from the then-internationally backed Afghan government.
The Biden administration subsequently imposed banking sector sanctions and froze billions of dollars in Afghan central bank’s foreign reserves. The economic restrictions pushed the economy to the brink of collapse and worsened humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan.
Mujahid said Saturday the Taliban did not require support from other nations to rebuild the country, arguing that Afghans are “capable" of doing it on their own. “However, our objective is, and so is our need, to seek better and trustworthy diplomatic relations with the international community, including America,” he said.
“We would welcome legitimate contacts and interactions with any country to further mutual ties,” Mujahid said. He noted that his government representatives in recent engagements with U.S. officials have time and again stressed the need for building “constructive” ties to enable both sides to address mutual concerns.
No country has formally recognized the Taliban government because the Islamist group has reintroduced some of the harsh policies from their 1996-2001 rule in the improvised country. The Taliban have placed curbs on women, effectively restricting their access to work and education. Teenage Afghan girls are barred from receiving a secondary-school education.
The U.S. and the international community at large have been pressing Taliban leaders to uphold their pledges and respect the rights of all Afghans and govern the country inclusively — if they want legitimacy for their rule.
The Taliban defend their policies, saying they are in line with Afghan culture and Islamic tenets. They also have dismissed calls for ensuring political inclusivity in the government, saying all Afghan groups are adequately represented in it.