The Taliban's acting prime minister asked the global community Wednesday to grant legitimacy to Afghanistan's new government, insisting it has met all conditions required for the official recognition.
Mohammad Hassan Akhund spoke at a conference in Kabul where his interim administration convened to discuss massive economic upheavals facing the country since the Taliban seized power last August. The event was also attended by United Nations officials.
"I call especially on Islamic countries to not wait for others and take the lead in officially recognizing our Islamic Emirate," Akhund said.
This would help expedite efforts aimed at addressing dire economic and humanitarian problems facing Afghanistan, he argued.
No country has yet recognized the new government, which the Taliban officially refer to as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Foreign governments are watching to see how the ultra-conservative group will govern the country this time around.
Akhund blamed the current economic crisis on international sanctions and the freezing of roughly $9.5 billion in Afghanistan's foreign cash reserves by Western nations led by the United States.
Deborah Lyons, the head of the U.N. mission in Kabul, told the conference the global body was working to "revitalize" the Afghan economy and "fundamentally" address the economic problems.
"The economic crisis is not the only problem facing Afghanistan. But it is one of the most urgent and above all is one where action is possible and must be taken quickly by all of us," Lyons said.
She praised some of the steps the Taliban administration has taken to contain economic deterioration.
"Foremost among these is the adoption recently of a national budget that, for the first time, is totally financed by national revenues and not dependent on any donor grants," Lyons noted. "In addition, revenue generation has been growing, despite the economic slowdown, in large part because of efforts to address corruption."
Lyons, however, stressed the importance of women's participation in economic activities, saying stable societies and economic progress require inclusion, respect for human rights and equality among all citizens.
Other senior Taliban Cabinet members also addressed Wednesday's conference and called for ending international economic sanctions.
Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said the Taliban government was seeking to establish close economic relations with international partners.
"Humanitarian aid is the short-term solution to economic problems but what is needed to solve problems in the long run is the implementation of infrastructure projects," Muttaqi said.
"I again avail this opportunity to call on the United States of America to unfreeze the assets of Afghanistan's Central Bank and to remove all impediments for relief organizations and Afghans in money transfers to Afghanistan," the foreign minister added.
Taliban officials said representatives of 20 foreign nations attended the conference, while dozens more participated virtually.
Since the Taliban took over the government five months ago, the suspension of most international development funding to aid-dependent Afghanistan, the imposition of financial restrictions and long-running terrorism-related sanctions on Taliban leaders, have led to a breakdown in many basic services, including electricity, health services and education.
Inflation is rampant, and the price of ordinary goods is beyond the reach of most Afghans.
Under the previous Taliban government from 1996 to 2001, women were excluded from public life, girls' education was banned, human rights abuses were rampant, and transnational terrorists were active on Afghan soil, triggering international sanctions and the diplomatic isolation of the country.
Although Taliban leaders have pledged to govern the country differently, they have not yet allowed most women to return to public sector jobs. While schoolboys were allowed to resume classes in September, secondary schools for girls across Afghanistan have mostly remained shuttered.
Women are not allowed to travel beyond 72 kilometers without a male relative and taxi drivers are ordered to refuse a ride to women not wearing an Islamic hijab or veil.
The International Labour Organization said Wednesday in a new report that Afghanistan had lost more than half-a-million jobs since the Taliban took control of the country. That number could rise to more than 900,000 by the middle of this year, the report said. The ILO noted women were hit hardest, estimating that female employment dropped by 16% in July, August and September.