The Taliban have named UN-sanctioned veteran Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund as the leader of Afghanistan’s new government, while giving key positions to figures who dominated the 20-year battle against the US-led coalition and its allies.
Chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a press conference on Tuesday that Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar would be the deputy leader.
Mullah Yaqoob, the son of the Taliban founder and late supreme leader Mullah Omar, was named defence minister, while the position of interior minister was given to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the feared Haqqani network who also doubled up as a Taliban deputy leader.
“The cabinet is not complete, it is just acting,” Mujahid said at the Government Information and Media Centre in Kabul.
“We will try to take people from other parts of the country.”
The hardline Islamists, who swept to power last month, have been expected to announce a government since the US-led evacuation was completed at the end of August.
They have promised an “inclusive” government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic makeup – though women are unlikely to be included at the top levels.
Amir Khan Muttaqi, a Taliban negotiator in Doha and member of the first regime’s cabinet, was named foreign minister.
As they transition from insurgent group to governing power, the Taliban have a series of major issues to address, including looming financial and humanitarian crises.
The announcement of cabinet appointments by Mujahid came hours after the 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 demonstrators had gathered outside the Pakistan embassy to accuse Islamabad of aiding the Taliban’s assault on the northern Panjshir province. The Taliban said on Monday they had seized the province – the last not in their control – after their blitz through Afghanistan last month.
Afghanistan’s previous government routinely accused Pakistan of aiding the Taliban, a charge Islamabad has denied. Former vice-president Amrullah Saleh, one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban forces, has long been an outspoken critic of neighbouring Pakistan.
Dozens of women were among the protesters on Tuesday. Some of them carried signs bemoaning the killing of their sons by Taliban fighters they say were aided by Pakistan. One sign read: “I am a mother when you kill my son you kill a part of me.”
More details soon…