One of the top Taliban leaders claimed that they have changed their ways since the last time they governed Afghanistan.

Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi urged the United States and other Western countries to release funds that have been frozen since the Taliban took power in mid-August and claimed the group is committed to gender equality in a Sunday interview with the Associated Press.


Khan, in discussing how the earlier Taliban regime, which ruled from 1996 to 2001, imposed limits on girls’ education and women in the workforce, noted that they “have made progress in administration and in politics.”

He said that under the new government, girls are going to school through 12th grade in roughly a third of the country’s provinces, while private schools and universities are operating without restrictions.

Shortly after the Taliban overthrew the U.S.-backed Ghani government and military, the U.S. froze nearly $10 billion that belonged to the previous government, though the Taliban have since warned about dire economic consequences.

“Sanctions against Afghanistan would ... not have any benefit,” Muttaqi explained. “Making Afghanistan unstable or having a weak Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the foreign minister’s comments during Monday’s briefing.

The funds “remain inaccessible to the Taliban,” she said, adding the money is located within “financial institutions in the United States and other countries, and these institutions have put in place a common risk mitigation strategy when countries that hold funds in those institutions face ... uncertainty.”

She noted pending litigation will prevent the funds from being released before the end of this year and into the next.

The foreign minister also said the Taliban have not targeted their opponents, though the international group Human Rights Watch alleged that they were responsible for the death or disappearance of more than 100 former police and intelligence officers.

The November report documented the killing or vanishing of 45 former Afghan National Security Forces soldiers who had surrendered or were apprehended between Aug. 15 and Oct. 31. In all, the group “gathered credible information on more than 100 killings from” four provinces, according to a statement.

Muttaqi also rebuked U.S. CENTCOM Cmdr. Gen. Frank McKenzie, who said last week that al Qaeda had grown slightly in Afghanistan since August, claiming that the Marine general was wrong in his assessment.

“Unfortunately, there are (always) allegations against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, but there is no proof,” Muttaqi said. “If McKenzie has any proof, he should provide it. With confidence, I can say that this is a baseless allegation.”


While the foreign minister said he does not expect the U.S. to cooperate with the Taliban in the fight against the Islamic State, he expressed optimism that “America will slowly, slowly change its policy toward Afghanistan."

“My last point is to America, to the American nation: You are a great and big nation, and you must have enough patience and have a big heart to dare to make policies on Afghanistan based on international rules and relegation, and to end the differences and make the distance between us shorter and choose good relations with Afghanistan,” he continued.