The Taliban have announced an interim government in Afghanistan, declaring the country an “Islamic Emirate”.
The caretaker Cabinet paid homage to the old guard of the group, giving top posts to Taliban personalities who dominated the 20-year battle against the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan government allies.
The Taliban seized control of most of the country on 15 August, ousting the previous elected leadership.
The announcement of the acting cabinet is a key step in the formation of a Taliban government.
It will be led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund as Prime Minister, one of the movement’s founders, who is on a UN blacklist.
Akhund headed the Taliban government in Kabul during the last years of its rule.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who had led talks with the United States and signed the deal that led to America’s final withdrawal from Afghanistan, will be one of two deputies to Akhund.
The interior minister will be Sarajuddin Haqqani, a feared FBI-wanted leader of the Haqqani militant group.
There was no evidence of non-Taliban in the lineup, a big demand of the international community.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, when announcing the Cabinet, said the appointments were for an interim government. He did not elaborate on how long they would serve and what would be the catalyst for a change.
In a statement, Taliban leader, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, said they want “strong and healthy relations with our neighbours and all other countries based on mutual respect and interaction” – with the caveat that they would respect international laws and treaties “that are not in conflict with Islamic law and the country’s national values”.
So far, the Taliban have shown no indications that they will hold elections.
Hassan Akhund, the new prime minister, served as deputy foreign minister from 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban were last in power.
Sarajuddin Haqqani, the new acting interior minister, is head of the militant group known as the Haqqani network who are affiliated with the Taliban and have been behind some of the deadliest attacks in the country’s two-decade-long war.
Unlike the wider Taliban, the Haqqani network has been designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the US.
Other appointments include Mullah Yaqoob as acting defence minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi as acting foreign minister, and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi as two deputies.
Yaqoob is the son of Taliban founder and late supreme leader Mullah Omar. He first came to prominence in 2015 when, in an audio message released after his father’s death, he called for unity within the militant group.
The announcement of Cabinet appointments by Mujahid came hours after 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.
Asked why no women were announced, Ahmadullah Wasiq, from the Taliban Cultural Commission, told the BBC that the cabinet had not been finalised yet.
Additional reporting from AP and BBC
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