A new Taliban interim government drawn exclusively from loyalist ranks officially began work on Wednesday, with established extremists in all key positions and no women – despite previous promises to form an inclusive administration for all Afghans.
As they transition from militant force to power to power, the Taliban are already facing opposition to their regime, with scattered protests – many with women in the foreground – erupting in cities across the country.
After leading a virtual 20-country ministerial meeting on the Afghan crisis, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any international legitimacy for the Taliban government should be “earned.”
In the capital Kabul, a small rally on Wednesday was quickly dispersed by armed Taliban security, while Afghan media reported that a protest in the northeastern city of Faizabad was also dispersed.
Hundreds of people demonstrated on Tuesday, both in the capital and in the city of Herat, where two people at the protest site were shot dead.
On Wednesday evening, the Taliban decided to quell further protests, issuing an order indicating that prior authorization from the Justice Department would be required – and warning that violators “would face serious legal action.”
And “for the moment”, protests are not allowed – at all.
The government’s announcement on Tuesday night was a key step in consolidating the Taliban’s power over Afghanistan, following an astonishing military victory that saw them overthrow the United States-backed administration on August 15.
Notorious for their brutal and oppressive regime from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban had promised a more inclusive government this time around.
However, all leadership positions have been handed over to key leaders of the movement and the Haqqani network – the most violent faction of the Taliban known for its devastating attacks.
Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund – a top minister during Taliban rule in the 1990s – has been appointed interim prime minister, the group’s chief spokesperson said.
Mullah Yaqoob, the son of the founder of the Taliban and late supreme leader, Mullah Omar, has been appointed defense minister, while the post of interior minister has been given to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the feared Haqqani network .
The movement’s co-founder, Abdul Ghani Baradar, who oversaw the signing of the US withdrawal agreement in 2020, has been appointed deputy prime minister.
None of the government appointees was female.
“We will try to take people from other parts of the country,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding that it was an interim government.
But Bill Roggio, editor of the US-based Long War Journal, tweeted: “The new Taliban, like the old Taliban.”
The Taliban had repeatedly pledged in recent days to govern more moderately than they did during their last term in power.
But Zabihullah announced the reinstatement of the dreaded Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice – which from 1996 to 2001 was responsible for arresting and punishing those who failed to implement the interpretation. restrictive of Sharia law by the movement.
Even as the Taliban consolidate their power, they face the monumental task of governing Afghanistan, which is beset by economic hardships and security concerns, including from the local Daesh chapter.
In Germany, Blinken said the ministerial talks were the “starting point for international coordination” on how to deal with the Taliban.
Among the countries that participated in the virtual meeting were European allies and Pakistan.
âThe Taliban are looking for international legitimacy. All legitimacy – all support – will have to be earned, âBlinken told reporters.
The European Union said the “interim” government had failed to honor the new leaders’ wishes to include different groups.
China for its part welcomed the end of “three weeks of anarchy”, adding that it “attaches great importance” to the announcement of an interim government.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China hopes the Taliban “will pursue moderate and regular domestic and foreign policies, resolutely suppress all kinds of terrorist forces, and get along well with all countries,” in particular neighboring countries “.
Former President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country on August 15 when the Taliban entered Kabul, apologized to the Afghan people on Wednesday for the end of his rule.
Ghani said he left at the request of palace security to avoid the risk of bloody street fights, and again denied stealing millions from the treasure.
“I apologize to the Afghan people for not being able to make this end differently,” he said on Twitter.