Kabul: Defying their own promises of only a couple of weeks ago, the Taliban have announced an all-male government with old guard hardliners in key cabinet positions, including one (Sirajuddin Haqqani as interior minister) who is on the FBI wanted list.
Reminiscent of their harsh rule 20 years ago, they forbade protests without prior authorization in a new attempt to silence dissent and have reportedly banned some women’s sports, reports AP. Their new education minister has said being pious is more important than education.
The Taliban have called it a caretaker government, perhaps to tell the international community that they may move towards more inclusivity. But chances of that may be remote looking at Mullah Hasan Akhund, who is on the UN’s sanctions list and had headed the previous government, emerging at top fixing in place rival political and military heavyweights including Mullah Baradar whom many predicted would take a leading role, instead of a deputy position.
To alienate Washington more, the interim government of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan is said to have decided to take oath of office on September 11, a day that marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001.
The one good news out of Kabul was the first international commercial flight since the end of the chaotic Western airlift from Afghanistan last month departed from the local airport on Thursday. After the evacuation of at least 200 American civilians along with other foreigners, more such flights are expected as the Kabul airport is functional again for international flights.
Indeed, the international community will need to engage with the Taliban to some extent despite disappointments. The U.S. needs Taliban cooperation to evacuate the remaining Americans and to fight an increasingly brazen Islamic State affiliate, considered the greatest terrorist threat against America emanating from Afghanistan. In recent weeks, the IS flag has been seen flying from several districts of the eastern province of Nangarhar.
Meanwhile, a humanitarian disaster that threatens millions of Afghans has the world scrambling to respond. On most days, Qatar is flying in food and medical supplies. Pakistan has announced it is sending planeloads of aid to Afghanistan. The United Nations has launched a $606 million emergency appeal to help nearly 11 million people in Afghanistan, or nearly one-third of the population. They are deemed to be in desperate need as a result of drought, displacement, chronic poverty and a sharp increase in hostilities as the Taliban swept to power last month.
Yet despite such dependence on international support, the Taliban sent a message with their Cabinet lineup this week that they intend to run Afghanistan on their terms.