The Taliban have issued an ominous warning to the United States after backlash from the international community surrounding the appointment of its interim Afghanistan "terrorist" government.
This week, the militant group announced the formation of the new "caretaker" government at a press conference in Kabul, which includes the Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund, who is also notably on a UN Security Council terror list. In fact, 17 out of 33 members of the new government are on UN sanctions lists for terrorism.
Notably, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the new acting interior minister, is a senior leader of the Haqqani network, according to the FBI, which describes him as "a specially designated global terrorist". He has a US$5 million bounty ($7.03m) on his head.
His father, Jalaluddin Haqqani, is the head of the Haqqani network.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said earlier this week the announcement came after "deep, deep consultation with the elders" and while he claimed the new government was only "acting" and not "final", critics fear the worst.
"For the foreseeable future, Afghanistan will be led by senior Taliban leaders who include in many cases the worst of the worst," Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, told CNBC on Wednesday.
Kugelman made specific mention of the Haqqani network, "known as the most brutal faction of the Taliban".
"Let's be clear here," he said.
"You're going to have several members of the Haqqani network — which has been implicated in some of the most mass casualty horrific terrorist attacks in Afghanistan over the years — and several of these leaders are going to be occupying these top spots, including the interior ministry, and clearly that is a major cause for concern, no matter how you slice it."
US Senator Lindsey Graham described the new Taliban government of Afghanistan as a "line-up of thugs and butchers".
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there was "no rush" for recognition and echoed concerns: "The world will be watching, the United States included".
The Pentagon's Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the Taliban "a ruthless group," but added: "In war, you do what you must."
But in a statement on Thursday night obtained by news.com.au, Mujahid slammed US officials for calling out cabinet members of the "Islamic State" – aka Afghanistan – and claimed they were in violation of the Doha agreement.
The Doha agreement is the document signed by the US and the Taliban in February of last year, which committed the US to a full military withdrawal by May 1, 2021.
Pentagon officials have remarked that some cabinet members of the Islamic Emirate or family members of late Haqqani Sahib – may Allah be pleased with him – are on the US blacklists and still targets," the statement reads.
"The Islamic Emirate considers this position a clear violation of the Doha Agreement which is neither in the interest of the United States nor Afghanistan,"
Despite clear links between the Taliban and the Haqqani network which have raised concerns for allies, the Taliban rejected the claims.
"The family of honorable Haqqani Sahib is part of Islamic Emirate and does not have a separate name or organisational setup.
In a remarkable twist, the group claimed any leaders in the new government under the Doha agreement meant any "blacklists" should have been wiped.
"Similarly, in Doha Agreement all officials of the Islamic Emirate without any exception were part of interaction with the US and should have been removed from the UN and US blacklists, a demand which still remains valid.
"That America and other countries are making such provocative statements and trying to meddle the internal affairs of Afghanistan, the Islamic Emirate condemns it in the strongest terms.
"Such remarks by US officials are a repetition of past failed experiments and such positions detrimental for America.
"We urge that these incorrect policies be immediately reversed through diplomatic interactions."
The US is yet to comment on the latest statement but Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US, said that the Taliban's appointments indicates the Taliban "are unreformed and unchanged".
He told CNN the Taliban had not "technically" pledged to have no terrorists and are "within their rights as they see it to allow various jihad groups to organise inside Afghanistan because they are fellow Muslim Islamists.
"There will definitely be a resurgence of terrorism around the world. Anyone who wants to engage in jihad against anyone in the world will probably find safe haven in Taliban's Afghanistan."