Taliban announce Afghanistan's new caretaker government

Published : September 08, 2021 20:16 IST

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid announced the new government at a press conference in Kabul. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

The militant Islamists have appointed leaders for their new administration after sweeping to power in recent weeks. Most posts have gone to longtime leaders in the Taliban power structure.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid has announced who will be appointed to key government posts as the group assumes complete power over Afghanistan.

Despite claims they would rule differently to the group's repressive regime in the 1990s, the list was filled with mostly old guard stalwarts. In a statement released later on September 7, the Taliban's supreme leader said the new government would be guided by Islamic Sharia law as interpreted by their fundamentalist ideology.

Who's who in the Taliban government?

A spokesman for the militants said that Mullah Hasan Akhund will be acting prime minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani will be acting interior minister, Mullah Yaqoob will be acting defense minister and Amir Khan Muttaqi will be acting foreign minister.

Akhund has been the leader of the Taliban's leadership council for decades. Yaqoob is the son of Taliban founder Mohammed Omar. Haqqani is the scion of a powerful family and leader of the brutal and powerful Haqqani network, which has become a suborganization of the Taliban in its own right.

Muttaqi is an established part of the group's diplomacy apparatus, representing the Islamist organization at UN-brokered peace negotiations.

The interim government will continue to include a Culture and Information Ministry as well as an Education Ministry, as well as a minister for refugees and repatriation. The Taliban has not elaborated on how long the caretaker government will last, and did not mention plans to hold elections.

Who is missing?

The list did not appear to include any non-Taliban figures, which had been demanded by the international community. The Taliban also reportedly disbanded the Ministry for Women's Affairs, days after violently clamping down on women-led protests against curbs to their freedoms under Taliban rule.

There are also no women in the new power structure, something protesters in Kabul had been calling for as women fear losing their hard-won rights.

Also suspiciously absent, Afghan journalist Ali Latifi told DW, is Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, who is "the leader of the Taliban as far as we know." Latifi said the omission gives credence to the rumors that the militant group's supreme leader since 2016 is dead, despite assurances from the Taliban to the contrary.

What did the leaders say?

As if to dispel exactly these kinds of rumors, the Taliban put out a statement from Akhundzada later on September 7. Known as the group's supreme leader, Akhundzada congratulated the country on "liberation from foreign rule" and confirmed that "in the future, all matters of governance and life in Afghanistan will be regulated by the laws of the Holy Sharia."

Under the Taliban's extremist vision, this means few rights for women and minorities and a repressive understanding of rules given in the Quran. Akhundzada said the new government would continue to uphold all international treaties and agreements not in violation with its interpretation of Islamic law.

How has the US responded?

Following the announcement of the interim government, Washington said it was concerned about the appointments. "We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women," the State Department said in a statement.

"We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals," the statement added. The US said that it would judge the Taliban's caretaker government "by its actions, not words."

What is the situation in Afghanistan?

On Monday, the Taliban claimed victory in the northeastern Panjshir province — the last Afghan region still holding out against their rule. However, resistance forces in Panjshir have said the fighting was still ongoing.

As US forces began leaving the country after a 20-year operation on August 15, the Taliban took advantage of the move to push through the vast majority of the country and reclaim power. Thousands of refugees fled to the country's borders and there was a desperate scramble for foreign nationals to evacuate the country.

es/rt (AP, Reuters)

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