On Tuesday, the Taliban regime unveiled the figures who will form the new government in Afghanistan, naming Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund as prime minister. Akhund was foreign minister during the period of Taliban rule in the 1990s and is among the list of those sanctioned by the UN.
Mullah Akhund is a prominent figure among the Taliban, as he was not only part of the Taliban state in the 1990s, but was also one of the most active voices in the Quetta Shura, the council of Taliban leaders who took refuge in the Pakistani city of Quetta after their ouster from power in 2001.
With the prime minister, Afghanistan will be governed as a parliamentary state, but the leadership of the Taliban will continue to be held by Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, who will continue to oversee the formation of the new Afghan government. Akhundzada may have been a decisive figure in Akhund’s appointment over the better known Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
“Our previous 20 years of struggle and Jihad had had two main objectives. First, to end foreign occupation and aggression and liberate the country, and second, to establish a complete, independent, stable and central Islamic system in the country,” Mullah Akhundzada said at the press conference.
According to the Hindustan Times, Pakistan may have had influence in Akhund’s appointment of Ghani, as days earlier the head of the ISI — Pakistan’s intelligence service — Lieutenant General, Faiz Hameed, flew unannounced to Kabul. During his visit, Hameed met with Ghani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hezb-e-Islami faction, a political group that emerged during the Soviet war and is almost as brutal as the Taliban themselves.
The Taliban regime’s new appointments include individuals with ongoing ties to al-Qaeda
While Akhund presides as head of government of the restored Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Ghani will be second in command in the new Taliban government. The Taliban takeover appears to have reunified the Taliban to some extent, as several members of the Haqqani network (a Taliban splinter group) have been placed in important positions within the new state.
The leader of the Taliban dissident group, Sirajuddin Haqqani, was appointed as Minister of Interior, while Khalil Ur Rehman Haqqani, will act as the Minister of Refugees.
According to a UN Security Council report published in February 2020, the Haqqani network retains links to Al-Qaeda. The FBI is currently offering a $5 million reward for the whereabouts leading to the capture of Sirajuddin Haqqani.
The appointment of Al-Qaeda-linked individuals to the government contrasts with earlier promises made by the Taliban regime to govern in conjunction with other Afghan political factions. Instead, the new cabinet is predominantly Pashtun and made up of the most radical lines of the Taliban, although there are Uzbek and Tajik members within the new cabinet, there is no trace of any Hazara, the most educated and, in turn, most persecuted minority in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban, was given the post of Minister of Defense, while his uncle, Abdul Manan was appointed Minister of Public Works.
Although they participated in the peace negotiations with the Taliban, former President Hamid Karzai and former peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah Abdullah did not get any posts in the new regime.
The Taliban regime still enjoys neither international nor domestic recognition
To date, no foreign government formally recognizes the Taliban regime. However, China, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and Turkey maintain their embassies in Kabul. The United States set up an office in Qatar where it maintains contact with the Taliban regime.
The new Taliban government was established the day after the announcement of the fall of the Panjshir Valley to Taliban forces. For a month Ahmad Massoud’s forces held out in the Valley, but Massoud’s forces succumbed to the blockade imposed by the Taliban. Some versions suggest that the Taliban fighters were supported by the Pakistani Armed Forces during the capture of the Panjshir Valley.
Despite Taliban claims to have conquered Panjshir, the resistance denies defeat and claims to still be in control of key points throughout the valley.
As the proclamation of the Taliban regime’s cabinet took place, thousands of people, mainly women, took to the streets to protest against the new government while chanting “death to Pakistan”. However, it was not long before the armed Taliban drove the protesters away with gunshots and rifle butts.