Taliban Announce New Government With Old Faces

Taliban Announce New Government With Old Faces

TOPSHOT - Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addresses a press conference in Kabul on September 7, 2021.
TOPSHOT – Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addresses a press conference in Kabul on September 7, 2021.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addresses a press conference in Kabul on September 7, 2021.

…While the cabinet is ostensibly temporary, the appointment of one of the FBI’s most wanted in a key role may stall any international recognition.

Taliban Announce Interim Cabinet

The Taliban announced the formation of an interim government on Tuesday, three weeks after the fall of Kabul and one day after the group claimed to have captured the Panjshir valley, the last remaining pocket of resistance.

Those hoping for a more moderate or modern group than the one that U.S. forces drove from power in 2001 will be disappointed. All of the appointees are men, most are ethnic Pashtuns, and many come from the top ranks of the Taliban leadership—calling the cabinet’s temporary nature into question.

Mohammad Hasan Akhund, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister will serve as acting prime minister, while Abdul Ghani Baradar—the former head of the Taliban’s Doha-based political office, has been named as his deputy. Even though Akhund is already on a U.N. sanctions list, what has raised the most eyebrows is the appointment of Sirajuddin Haqqani as acting interior minister. Haqqani has a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head as the leader of the Haqqani network, which is designated a terrorist group by the United States.

Amir Khan Muttaqi, a relative moderate and member of the Taliban’s Doha-based negotiating team will take the role of acting foreign minister while Mullah Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar takes on the defense portfolio. (Foreign Policydocumented Yaqoob’s rise, helped in part by a coronavirus outbreak in the Taliban’s senior ranks, back in June 2020.)

In a statement in which it warned the “world is watching closely,” the U.S. State Department offered veiled criticism of the announcement, highlighting its lack of women and opposition figures. Noting that the cabinet is intended only in a caretaker capacity, the statement said the United States would judge the group by “its actions, not words,” repeating demands for a more inclusive government.

International recognition. A more clear-cut response from the international community is expected today as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his German counterpart Heiko Maas co-host a ministerial-level summit on Afghanistan with almost two dozen participants.

Haqqani’s appointment will likely stall any calls for international recognition of the new government, and may jeopardize the outcome of an international donor conference set for September 13 in Geneva.

Service collapse. While the cabinet announcement still represents a step forward in the Taliban’s quest for legitimacy, how they handle matters on the ground will decide their ability to placate a restive populace. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned on Tuesday that Afghanistan faces the imminent collapse of basic services as food and other aid begins to dwindle.




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