Taliban name caretaker cabinet

September 7, 2021 - 21:5

The Taliban on Tuesday afternoon released the names of the caretaker government.

Mullah Mohammad Hassan, the little-known head of the Taliban’s leadership council, was named as acting prime minister, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said at a press conference in Kabul. Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the main public face of the group who signed a peace deal with the Trump administration last year, will serve as his deputy, according to Bloomberg. 

Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network, will serve as acting interior minister.

Mujahed made no mention of Taliban Supreme Commander Haibatullah Akhundzada, who hasn’t been seen in public since becoming the group’s leader in 2016. Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of former supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar -- who refused to give up Osama bin Laden to the U.S. before the 2001 invasion -- became acting defense minister.

There was no evidence of non-Taliban in the lineup, a big demand of the international community.

Mujahid, when announcing the cabinet, said the appointments were for an interim government. He did not elaborate on how long they would serve and what would be the catalyst for a change.

So far, the Taliban have shown no indications that they will hold elections.

The announcement of cabinet appointments by Mujahid came hours after Taliban fired into the air to disperse protesters and arrested several journalists, the second time in less than a week the group used heavy-handed tactics to break up a demonstration in the Afghan capital of Kabul, the Washington Post reported.

The demonstrators had gathered outside the Pakistan embassy to accuse Islamabad of aiding the Taliban’s assault on northern Panjshir province. The Taliban said Monday they seized the province — the last not in their control — after their blitz through Afghanistan last month.

The Taliban want good relations with all countries in the world, including the U.S., Mujahed told reporters. He called the cabinet a “diverse group” that included a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds, although no women were chosen. 

“We’re not a tribal force,” Mujahed said, adding that the group wanted good relations with the U.S. despite the war. “We hope all countries in the world will recognize the legitimacy of our government and our Islamic regime.”

The U.S. and its allies have been watching to see whether the Taliban would form an inclusive government that can stabilize the country and prevent a return to civil war. Other demands include freedom of travel for those who want to leave Afghanistan and rights for women, who faced extreme repression when the Taliban last held power at the turn of the century. 

For the new Taliban government, lots is at stake. Signs of an economic crisis are brewing, with prices of essential goods rising in Kabul while banks run short on cash. The U.S. has frozen roughly $9 billion in assets belonging to Da Afghanistan Bank, or DAB, the nation’s central bank, and the International Monetary Fund cut off the group from using fund reserve assets. 

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