Weeks after sweeping to power and toppling the US-backed president, the Taliban established their government on Tuesday, with a UN-blacklisted veteran of the hardline organisation at the helm.
However, as the Taliban transforms from a terrorist organization to the country’s ruling power, security forces are dealing with an increasing number of anti-Taliban protests, with two people killed in the western city of Herat.
At a news conference in Kabul, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a top official during the Taliban’s cruel and repressive tenure in the 1990s, was named acting prime minister.
In Islamabad, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is shown with Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund (R).
The Taliban pledged an inclusive administration that would reflect the ethnic makeup of the country, but senior officials from the organization and the Haqqani network — the Taliban’s most militant offshoot infamous for catastrophic attacks — were given all of the top positions.
There were no women among the government appointees.
“We will try to recruit people from other parts of the country,” said spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid, who added that the government was only temporary.
Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s hidden supreme leader who has never been seen in public, issued a statement shortly after the new lineup was unveiled, claiming that the new administration would “work hard to preserve Islamic rules and sharia law.”
“The new Taliban are the same as the old Taliban,” Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal in the United States, tweeted.
Mullah Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder and late supreme commander Mullah Omar, was named defense minister, while Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, was chosen interior minister.
Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban who oversaw the signing of the US withdrawal deal, will be Hassan’s deputy.
“It’s not at all inclusive, and that’s no surprise,” said Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a South Asia expert.
“The Taliban had never suggested that any of their cabinet ministers would include anyone else.”
‘No rush’ to recognize Taliban
Following a 20-year conflict, the Taliban are now faced with the enormous burden of administering Afghanistan, which is beset by economic issues and security threats, particularly from the Islamic State’s local affiliate.
Over the last week, a growing number of protests have erupted around the country, with many Afghans fearing a repetition of the Taliban’s prior cruel and oppressive rule.
Hundreds of people gathered in Kabul on Tuesday for various demonstrations, in a show of defiance inconceivable under the previous administration, as Taliban guards fired rounds to disperse the crowds.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Herat, unfurling banners and carrying the Afghan flag, which is a black, red, and green vertical tricolor with a white national insignia superimposed on top, with some yelling “freedom.”
Two bodies were later carried to the city’s primary hospital from the protest location, according to a doctor in Herat who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Over the last week, a considerable number of protests have erupted across Afghanistan.
“They’ve all been shot,” he explained.
In recent days, women have held demonstrations in smaller cities, demanding to be included in a new administration.
The Afghan Independent Journalists Association, located in Kabul, stated 14 journalists, both Afghan and foreign, were briefly detained during the Kabul rallies before being freed.
Late Tuesday, a Taliban spokesman cautioned the population against marching to the streets.
“No one should protest until all government offices have opened and the laws for protests have been clarified,” Mujahid stated.
In the 1990s, the gang, which murdered people in stadiums and sliced the hands of criminals, claimed it would not tolerate any resistance to its reign.
Washington, which has stated that it is “not in a hurry” to recognize the new government, voiced concern about members of the government on Tuesday, but stated that it will judge the government based on its actions.
“We note that the announced list of names only includes men who are Taliban members or close allies, with no women included. We’re also concerned about some of the individuals’ relationships and track records “a spokeswoman for the State Department stated.
“The Taliban has presented this as a caretaker ministry, according to our sources. We will, however, assess the Taliban based on its actions rather than its words.”
On a visit to Qatar, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the Taliban were honoring agreements to enable Afghans to leave the country freely as long as they had travel documents.
Following allegations that several hundred people, including Americans, had been barred from flying out of an airport in northern Afghanistan for a week, US President Joe Biden has been under increasing criticism.
No women in government
The absence of women in the interim Afghan administration “calls into doubt the recent vows to defend and respect the rights of Afghanistan’s women and girls,” said Pramila Patten, the president of UN Women, a group that advocates global gender equality.
“The Taliban leadership has given the wrong message about their declared goal of constructing an inclusive, robust, and successful society” by excluding women.
She urged for the Taliban to “completely comply with its legally bound commitments” under international treaties and the constitution, which provide “the full participation of women in political and decision-making processes.”