(c) 2021, The Washington Post Rachel Pannett

Afghanistan’s new government in charge, announced on September 7, is made up entirely of hardliners from the Taliban known for their closeness to the movement’s late founding leader, one-eyed cleric Muhammad Omar – which could complicate efforts to restart the economy and restore relations with the international community.

The cabinet in charge – the Taliban has said it will soon appoint permanent authorities – also includes members of the powerful militant group known as the Haqqani network, responsible for a large number of deadly attacks and kidnappings over the past two decades. But there is no room for officers who played a role in the western-backed Afghan government, such as former President Hamid Karzai or former national reconciliation leader Abdullah Abdullah.

The United States, which controls billions of dollars of the country’s frozen reserves, had been pushing for the administration to have non-Taliban members. This is what we know about the new government.

Q: Who are the new leaders of Afghanistan?

A: Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the extremist group, has the final say on all political, religious and military decisions. He has officially led the Taliban since 2016, but has not been seen in public for years. The ultra-conservative cleric, in his late 60s, rose to prominence as a religious leader who became one of the Taliban’s top judges.

Muhammad Hassan Akhund, a close associate of Omar, was appointed as the prime minister in charge. He was foreign minister and then deputy prime minister during the last Taliban government from 1996 to 2001. He has long been the head of the powerful Taliban leadership council.

Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the founding members of the Taliban and Omar’s henchman, was named as Akhund’s deputy. With a soft tone of voice and a gray beard, Baradar helped lead negotiations with the United States during the Trump administration, culminating in the Doha accords that formalized the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Being probably the most recognized leader of the Taliban globally, Baradar had been widely considered for the position of prime minister.

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Sirajuddin Haqqani, the current minister in charge of the interior, is the head of the Taliban sub-organization known as the Haqqani network. The group has been behind some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan in the past two decades – including the detonation of a truck bomb in Kabul that killed more than 150 people in 2017. The Haqqani network has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States and maintains close ties with Al-Qaeda.

Q: Does it matter that many of Afghanistan’s new leaders are on UN sanctions lists and are wanted by the FBI?

A: The new prime minister is on a UN sanctions list. The FBI is offering $ 10 million for information leading to the arrest of the interior minister, who is being asked for questioning in connection with an attack on a hotel in Kabul that in 2008 killed six people, including a US citizen.

As the militant group takes hold to rule the country again, legal experts say sanctions are one of the few viable resources the international community has for lobbying. (After the Taliban seized power, the Biden administration froze the reserve funds of Afghanistan’s central bank using an executive order passed after the September 11, 2001 attacks.)

It is not the first time that the highest authorities of a government, such as North Korea, have been subject to sanctions. “You can think of multiple murderous regimes or regimes where people have not done well at all,” said Donald Rothwell, an international law expert at the Australian National University. “That in itself is not a disqualification that prevents the recognition of a government, or simply doing business with another government.”

Western leaders have mentioned their intention to establish some kind of working relationship with the Taliban, he said. But, for now at least, the United States and its allies are unlikely to come to legally recognize them as a government, Rothwell said. Western governments have made clear that any return of foreign aid to the country depends on the Taliban respecting the basic human rights of the population and allowing vulnerable Afghans to leave the country.

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The Taliban says it wants good relations with all countries – except Israel – and has been meeting with representatives of various nations this September in Qatar, where the group maintains a political office, the Associated Press reported.

China has openly expressed interest in establishing relations with the Taliban militants and, like Russia, has kept its embassy open in Kabul.

Q: What does this new leadership mean for Afghanistan?

A: In order to access international aid and the billions of dollars in assets from Afghanistan’s central bank, the Taliban will have to convince the world that it has become a more moderate version than the one that previously prohibited girls from attending. to schools and that he stoned women to death for alleged offenses such as adultery.

The all-male cabinet is unlikely to help defuse the unrest that has been building in the country in recent days, with rumors of gender segregation in universities and demonstrations in big cities that have called for a more inclusive government. In what is a potentially revealing sign, it has been announced that the dreaded Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which developed a severe interpretation of Islam preached by the Taliban in the 1990s, will be reinstated.

At least one high-ranking Taliban official has said that women will not be allowed to play sports under the new regime, and the vice chairman of the Taliban’s cultural commission, Ahmadullah Wasiq, told Australian news agency SBS News that sports are not seen as important to women.

Haq Nawaz Khanfrom the Washington Post, in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed reporting to this article.

Author Information:

Rachel Pannett joined the Post’s foreign affairs bureau in 2021 after more than a decade with the Wall Street Journal, where she served as second-in-command in the newspaper’s bureau in Australia and New Zealand.

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