The Islamist Taliban have introduced the first members of the new government three weeks after coming to power in Afghanistan. Mohammed Hassan Akhund becomes the new prime minister. The prime ministers were also appointed during a press conference in Kabul.
Akhund comes from the southern province of Kandahar, was one of the founders of the Taliban and already held important posts during the Islamist regime in the 1990s. He is known as a moderate figure, with close ties to current Taliban commander Haibatullah Akhundzada.
In the past, the new head of government worked closely with the late Mohammed Omar, another Taliban founder, and served as his political adviser. He was a foreign minister in the previous Taliban regime (1996-2001) and is blacklisted by the United Nations for his links to the group.
Another of the Taliban’s co-founders, Abdul Ghani Baradar, will become number two in the new government, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference in Kabul. Baradar led negotiations with the United States in the Qatari capital Doha.
Mohammed Omar’s son, Mohammad Yaqoob, has been appointed defence minister. The post of interior minister goes to Sarajuddin Haqqani. According to the Americans, he is the son of the founder of the so-called Haqqani network, a terrorist organization.
Haqqani, wanted by the FBI, leads that group and is also a deputy leader of the Taliban. Negotiator Amir Khan Muttaqi can count on the Foreign Affairs post. “The government is not complete,” Mujahid emphasized.
The Taliban’s chief spiritual leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, has called on the new Afghan government to enforce Sharia law. It is the first time since the fall of the government and the takeover of Kabul that Akhundzada has made himself heard. In a statement in English, he said that “the administrators will work hard to enforce Islamic rules and Sharia law in the country”.
All appointments announced so far have a clear Taliban stamp and religious background. The spokesman assured that the Taliban – who have promised an “inclusive” policy – would try to bring “people from other parts of the country” into the government.
Asked about the dispersal of a demonstration in Kabul on Tuesday, Mujahid said the Taliban are “not yet trained” in the management of demonstrations and called on protesters to notify authorities a day in advance of rallies.
A priority for the new government is to rebuild the war-torn country. The economy was hit again by the seizure of power. An additional problem for the Taliban is that Afghanistan has stored much of its assets in the United States, which the extremists cannot access.