The Taliban prime minister said in his first public address that his government “wants good relations with all countries and economic relations with them” as Afghanistan grapples with an economic and humanitarian crisis, Bloomberg reported.
Taliban Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund during his Saturday address called for the release of billions of dollars in Afghan assets now sitting in U.S. banks in order to alleviate Afghanistan’s economic and financial issues, according to the news outlet.
The insurgent group has claimed that the U.S. government has prevented it from accessing some of the country’s assets. Bloomberg noted that concerns over human rights abuses, the lack of inclusivity in the Taliban’s cabinet and the regime’s terrorist ties have led the U.S. to withhold that money.
Akhund also assigned blame to former President Ashraf Ghani’s government for the present-day turmoil that the country has been mired in, saying those issues started prior to the Taliban’s rule.
“Nation, be vigilant. Those left over from the previous government in hiding are … causing anxiety, misleading the people to distrust their government,” Akhund said in his address, according to the AP.
Akhund said that his cabinet has started taking steps to address the economic crisis, including issuing government workers payments again after many of them had not received paychecks for weeks, the Associated Press reported.
The remarks come as international organizations sound the alarm on a worsening crisis within Afghanistan as the country has dealt with a wave of ISIS-K attacks last month, food insecurity and poverty.
Earlier this week, the United Nations’s Development Programme cautioned in a report that Afghanistan’s financial system could collapse in months due to a buildup of unpaid loans straining the country’s banks.
Meanwhile, a report from the UN’s World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization in October noted that roughly half of Afghanistan’s population were facing “high levels of acute food insecurity.” The UN also warned in mid-September that one million Afghan children were on the brink of starvation before the winter.
Akhund in his Saturday address called the lack of food “a test from God, after people rebelled against Him,” and asked people to pray it would end soon.