Asia

Afghanistan: US concerned by new Taliban government

The US has said it is concerned after the Taliban unveiled Afghanistan’s new all-male government with figures linked to attacks on American forces.

The interim cabinet is led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, who is on a UN blacklist. Another figure, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is wanted by the FBI.

The Islamist group seized control of Afghanistan in a sweeping offensive more than three weeks ago.

Women-led demonstrations have been held against the Islamists since then.

The militants deny using violence against them, but their government faces many tough challenges in the conflict-torn country, including stabilising the economy and gaining international recognition.

The group had previously said they wanted to form an inclusive government.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US state department said: “We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women.

“We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals.”

It added that America would “judge the Taliban by its actions, not words”.

The statement said Washington would “continue to hold the Taliban to their commitments” to allow safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans with travel documents, “including permitting flights currently ready to fly out of Afghanistan”.

“We also reiterate our clear expectation that the Taliban ensure that Afghan soil is not used to threaten any other countries,” it said, adding: “The world is watching closely.”

Ministers told to implement Islamic law

Earlier on Tuesday, a statement attributed to Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada told the government to uphold Sharia law – Islam’s legal system.

The Taliban want “strong and healthy” relations with other countries and would respect international laws and treaties as long as they did not conflict with “Islamic law and the country’s national values”, it said.

Hassan Akhund, the new interim prime minister, served as deputy foreign minister from 1996 to 2001, when the militants were last in power. He is influential on the religious side of the movement, rather than the military side.

His appointment is seen as a compromise, after recent reports of in-fighting between some relatively moderate Taliban figures and their hard-line colleagues.

Interior minister on US terrorism list

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting interior minister, is head of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, who are affiliated with the Taliban and have been behind some of the deadliest attacks in the country’s two-decade-long war – including a truck bomb explosion in Kabul in 2017 that killed more than 150 people.

Unlike the wider Taliban, the Haqqani network has been designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the US. It also maintains close ties to al-Qaeda.

The FBI says he is wanted for questioning over a 2008 attack on a hotel that killed an American and was behind attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.

A movement which has long moved in the shadows, whose names would surface only on the world’s terrorism watch lists, is now announcing titles used in governments the world over.

Acting prime minister Mullah Akhund appears as a compromise candidate after reported rivalries among leading military and political figures who will serve under him.

Its caretaker nature also provides breathing space as the Taliban move from guns to government.

It also underlines the Taliban view that a Taliban victory can only mean Taliban rule. Sources say they pushed back against calls for an “inclusive” government. They balked at including former political figures and officials, who’ve had their turn at the top, and especially those tainted by corruption.

“Why should we let others pick our cabinet when other countries pick their own? “was one retort.

As for women, there was never a chance they would be given a ministerial role; the ministry of women’s affairs seems to have been, for now, abolished altogether.

Other appointments to the new government include:

  • Mullah Yaqoob as acting defence minister. He is the son of Taliban founder and late supreme leader Mullah Omar
  • Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will be one of the PM’s deputies. He oversaw the signing of the US withdrawal agreement last year
  • Amir Khan Muttaqi, an interim foreign minister, also took part in the withdrawal talks

The Taliban now claim full control of Afghanistan, saying they have defeated resistance fighters who were holding out against them in the Panjshir valley, north of Kabul.

The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) said it “considers the announcement of the Taliban’s caretaker cabinet illegal and a clear sign of the group’s enmity with the Afghan people”.

 

 

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