Taliban Supreme Leader Warns Foreigners Not to Interfere in Afghanistan

the of the taliban Supreme leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada has once again warned foreigners not to interfere in Afghanistan during a rare speech at a gathering of Islamic clerics in Kabul on Friday, according to state media.

The reclusive leader told the conference that Afghanistan “cannot develop without being independent,” according to the state-run Bakhtar news agency.

“Thank God, we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) should not give us their orders, it is our system and we have our own decisions,” Akhundzada added.

In the speech, Akhundzada praised the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August, nearly two decades after they were driven from Kabul by US troops, saying: “The success of the Afghan jihad is not only a source of pride for Afghans but also for Muslims around the world.” .

The speed of the seizure of power, just weeks after the US troop withdrawal began, took the world by surprise and led to the dissolution of the foreign-backed government of Ashraf Ghani, who had fled the country.

Akhundzada made the comments on an audio recording during a three-day religious gathering of 3,000 attendees, all men, according to state media. The meeting was not open to the media, but CNN heard a recording of Akhundzada’s speech.

The meeting in Kabul began on Thursday. Akhundzada is based in Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace and spiritual heartland, and is rarely photographed in public, a fact that has rumors fueled over the years he was ill or possibly dead. No photos of Akhundzada attending the meeting, which began in Kabul on Thursday, have been released.

A senior religious cleric from the Taliban’s founding generation, Akhundzada was appointed Taliban leader in 2016 after the group’s previous leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan.

He retained the post when the group announced its interim government in September.

Akhundzada ruled out including past administrations in the formation of any future government, although he said he “forgave” them.

“I forgave the oppressors of the previous regime. I don’t hold them responsible for their past actions, if someone created problems for them without committing new crimes, I will punish them. However, forgiveness does not mean bringing them into government.” Akhundzada said in the audio recording.

The message seemed to contradict statements made by other members of the Taliban leadership in recent months, who have expressed openness to a more inclusive government in order to gain international support.

The international community has repeatedly called on the Taliban to expand the ranks of their government and restore the rights of women and girls, which have been stripped away since the group took power, if they want to be officially recognized. The World Bank has frozen projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the issue.

Women in Afghanistan they can no longer work in most sectors and require a male guardian for long-distance travel, while girls have been barred from returning to secondary school.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, Acting Minister of the Interior of Afghanistan and deputy leader of the Taliban since 2016, he told CNN in May that there would be “good news soon” about the Taliban’s as-yet-unfulfilled promise to allow girls to return to school, but suggested that women protesting the regime’s restrictions on women’s rights should stay home.

During an urgent meeting in Geneva on Friday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that “women and girls in Afghanistan were experiencing the most significant and rapid setback in the enjoyment of their rights in general in decades. “.

Speaking to clerics, Akhundzada reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of Sharia law, Islam’s legal system derived from the Koran, while expressing his opposition to the “non-believers’ way of life.”

The Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Sharia law when it was last in power led to scores of violent punishments, including stoning to death for suspected adulterers, public executions and amputations.

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