Taliban appoint loyalists to top government posts

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KABUL, Afghanistan – The Taliban announced an interim government on Tuesday, taking an important step in re-establishing their Islamic emirate of Afghanistan and empowering many of their regime’s mainstays in the 1990s.

After weeks of assurances from Taliban leaders that the movement would offer a more moderate and inclusive style of governance, most of the interim appointments on Tuesday were high-ranking figures who held similar roles decades ago – a sign that the group’s conservative and theocratic core remains largely unchanged. All were male, and several are listed by the United States and the United Nations as global terrorists.

“I assure all our compatriots that these officials will work hard to uphold Islamic rules and Sharia law,” Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, the movement’s supreme leader, said in a written statement delivered at a press conference in Kabul. “The Islamic Emirate needs the continued support of its people to jointly rebuild the crumbling country. “

The Taliban have made it clear that more appointments are on the way, extending a process that has been stretching for weeks already since the group suddenly took national control last month.

The highest role announced on Tuesday went to Mullah Muhammad Hassan, who was appointed interim prime minister, making him the head of government. Mr. Hassan is a hard-line supporter who has held a similar role on the insurgency’s governing board in recent years and served as deputy prime minister in the first Taliban government.

Some analysts believed that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had led the Taliban’s negotiations with the United States, would take on this role, but he was instead appointed deputy, along with Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, a prominent Uzbek member of the team. negotiation.

The highest security posts, however, went to newcomers from a younger generation of Taliban leaders, both of whom were Sheikh Haibatullah’s powerful military assistants.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, 48, appointed interim interior minister, presided over the insurgent campaign of urban bombing that has terrorized the capital, Kabul, for years. His new position will give him extensive authority over law enforcement and legal matters. Mawlawi Muhammad Yaqoub, who has been appointed interim defense minister, is the eldest son of the founding leader of the Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar, and is believed to be in his thirties.

Much of the cabinet, including Mr. Baradar, had served in the Taliban’s political office in Doha, Qatar. Among them were Amir Khan Muttaqi, the acting foreign minister; his deputy, Sher Abbas Stanikzai; and four of the so-called “Guantanamo Five”. They were held at the US Guantánamo Bay detention camp for 13 years before being traded in 2014 for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier captured by the Taliban.

To rule, the Taliban will need to get aid, which has been frozen by the United States and other nations. Still, US sanctions against some cabinet members, including Mr Haqqani and his uncle, Khalil Haqqani, who was appointed acting minister for refugees and repatriation – both listed as leaders of the terrorist-nominated Haqqani network – will make this proposal hard.

Another factor will be foreign governments, lenders and aid organizations waiting to see the fate of the opposition and whether the Taliban respects the rights of women and ethnic and religious minorities. Just hours before the Taliban announced their new government posts, in fact, their fighters were on the streets of Kabul, violently disrupting a peaceful protest for the second time in less than a week.

As the crowd of protesters grew on Tuesday, with hundreds of women joined by at least as many men, the Taliban began hitting protesters with rifle butts and batons, witnesses said, and the crowd s’ is dispersed after the fighters start firing in the air.

Rezai, 26, one of the organizers of the latest protest, said the protest was planned in coordination with people trying to organize national resistance against the Taliban.

“We invited people using social media platforms,” she said. “And there were more people than expected. We expect more rallies tonight because people don’t want terror and destruction. “

As they walked on Tuesday morning, they carried a banner with one word: “Freedom”.

The protests come as the Taliban are also strengthening their military grip on the country, announcing on Monday that they had captured the capital of the troubled Panjshir province.

Afghanistan is also facing a worsening humanitarian crisis. Basic services like electricity are threatened, while the country is rocked by shortages of food and money.

Thousands of Afghans are still desperately trying to flee the country, even as the United States struggles to evacuate dozens of its citizens. At a press conference in Doha, Qatar on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said US officials “are working tirelessly” to ensure that charter flights carrying Americans can leave Afghanistan in completely safe.

A senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the fact that the Taliban took more than three weeks to announce even a transitional government, despite the urgent need to restore economic services and functions , could be taken as a sign that “they weren’t really ready, and they didn’t have a plan.

The appointed officials, who were all men, were also known to include only a few non-Pashtuns, despite the country’s ethnic diversity and the Taliban’s promises of inclusive government.

At the press conference appointing the new cabinet, Taliban chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who has been appointed deputy minister of information and culture, stressed the transitional nature of the government.

“This is an interim cabinet appointed to run the day-to-day business, and we are preparing the foundations for government and state building,” he said. “In the near future, the role of popular participation and the chouras will be developed. “

Taliban officials say a nationwide gathering of religious scholars and elders is still scheduled to confirm Sheikh Haibatullah, a native of Kandahar province and a widely respected religious scholar within the movement, as supreme leader from Afghanistan.

The report was provided by Wali Ariane, Sami sahak, Moujib Mashal, Adam nossiter, Michael crowleyand Farnaz Fassihi.

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