Taliban poised to debut new Afghan government in days

The Taliban showed off captured American Humvees and rifles in a military parade Sept. 1 outside Kandahar. (AFP-Jiji)

MOYURU BABA, Nikkei staff writer | Afghanistan

NEW DELHI — The Taliban look to announce Afghanistan’s new government in the coming days, amid unanswered questions about who will be included.

Top Taliban members, senior officials from the old U.S.-backed administration and leaders from other influential groups have reached a consensus on a new government and cabinet, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

“We’re about to announce a functioning cabinet and government in a few days, not weeks,” said Bilal Karimi, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission.

The group celebrated its triumph with a parade Wednesday in the Taliban heartland, near the city of Kandahar, showing off Humvees, M16 rifles and other military equipment captured from the U.S. A Black Hawk helicopter flew overhead with a Taliban flag hanging from the side — possibly piloted by a former member of the Afghan armed forces, as the Taliban are believed to have no fighters capable of flying the aircraft.

But attention will need to turn soon to rebuilding Afghanistan’s broken economy, and questions remain about whether the “inclusive” government promised by the Islamic fundamentalist group will be sufficiently open to women and outsiders to satisfy a skeptical international community.

A Taliban spokesman had said Tuesday that supreme commander Haibatullah Akhundzada and others had decided on policies related to security and a range of other fields after three days of discussions in Kandahar. Other Afghan leaders likely shared similar views, speeding along the negotiations.

Akhundzada will be the top leader, while Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar is expected to be in charge of daily operations, according to media reports. Baradar previously handled foreign affairs, such as negotiations with the U.S.

Most of the 26 members of the Taliban’s leadership council are reportedly set to serve in the cabinet.

Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid pledged a more “inclusive” government after the group took over Kabul in August.   © Reuters

After the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, a spokesman said the group planned to establish an “inclusive” caretaker government. Officials have held talks with former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a top politician under the previous government, who urged them to let women participate in the new administration.

The Taliban have promised to ensure the public’s safety and respect women’s rights and opportunities for work and education, but much remains uncertain days before the formation of a new government.

Afghan media reported Wednesday that the new government will be announced without any members of the last administration participating. The New York Times said that whether Karzai and Abdullah will be included remains an open question.

“Our people have fought for 20 years. They are emotional and would not accept outsiders,” a senior Taliban leader told Nikkei last week, hinting that women and members of the former government may be initially shut out.

Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday that the group wants to “have good relations with the U.S. and the world,” stressing the need for international support to rebuild Afghanistan’s struggling economy.

But other countries are unlikely to respond well if the fundamentalist group forms a government from its own ranks alone. Organizations including the International Monetary Fund have already shut off aid, and the country could end up in deeper turmoil depending on how the Taliban handle the task of governing.

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