Taliban Name New Afghanistan Government, Interior Minister Part of Terrorist Network
The Taliban announced a new government for Afghanistan on Tuesday, with Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund to be the country’s interim prime minister and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as the second-in-command.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the development at a press conference on Tuesday, also saying that Abdul Ghani Baradar will be the deputy leader and Sirajuddin Haqqani, a member of the Haqqani network that has long been designated as a terrorist organization by the Department of State, is the country’s interior minister. And Mullah Yaqoob, will be the defense minister, the spokesman added.
There was no evidence that non-Taliban figures or women were named to any government positions by Mujahid on Tuesday. The Taliban has said that it would form an “inclusive” government that would allow women’s freedoms “within Islamic law.”
“We know the people of our country have been waiting for a new government,” Mujahid said. The cabinet, he added, was an “acting” government and that the Taliban will “try to take people from other parts of the country.”
Baradar was one of the original founders of the Taliban, designated by some federal agencies as a terrorist group, in the early 1990s and has served in various leadership positions throughout the group’s lifespan. He fled to Pakistan when the United States invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Years later, Baradar was captured by Pakistani forces in Karachi and was later released from prison in 2018 after his release was requested so Baradar could lead peace negotiations.
Yaqoob is the son of Taliban co-founder and former leader Mullah Omar. Meanwhile, Haqqani, the son of the founder of the Haqqani network, is on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list for being the head of a designated terrorist group.
The Taliban, which carried out a swift military mission to take over Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. military pullout, had been expected to announce a government after the United States officially departed late last month.
It was not clear what role in the government would be played by Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban leader, who has not been seen or heard in public since the collapse of the Western-backed government and the seizure of Kabul by the Taliban last month.
The Taliban have repeatedly sought to reassure Afghans and foreign countries that they will not return to the brutality of their last reign two decades ago, marked by violent punishments and the barring of women and girls from public life.
However, there have been reports of Taliban brutality across Afghanistan, including mass executions and torture. On Tuesday, Taliban members allegedly committed violence against anti-Pakistan protesters who were demonstrating in Kabul, drawing condemnation from a United Nations official.
Women, in some cases, have said that Taliban members forced them to wear burqas. Two female journalists claimed that an armed Taliban told them that they cannot wear hijabs but instead will have to wear burqas.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that the United States will attempt to hold the Taliban to “commitments” that it had made to “the international community” about allowing Afghans and Americans to freely leave the country.
Reuters contributed to this report.