The Taliban are expected to announce a new government in Afghanistan within hours as chaos and confusion deepened and the country teetered on the brink of economic collapse more than two weeks after the Islamist militia took control.
Sources told Agence-France Presse that the cabinet could come forward after morning prayers on Friday, while Ahmadullah Muttaqi, a Taliban official, said on social media that a ceremony was being prepared at the presidential palace in Kabul.
Private broadcaster Tolo said an announcement was imminent. The movement’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, is expected to have ultimate power over a new governing council, with a president below him, Taliban officials said.
Islamist militants ruled Afghanistan through an unelected leadership council, brutally applying a radical form of sharia law, from 1996 to 2001, when they were overthrown by US-led forces, but have promised a softer type of government. since his return.
However, the United States, the EU and others have questioned such assurances, saying that formal recognition of the new government, and any economic aid that follows, will depend on the actions of the Taliban in power.
“We are not going to take them at their word, we are going to take them for their deeds,” said US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland. The EU has said that the new rulers will not be recognized until they form an inclusive government, respect human rights and provide unrestricted access to humanitarian workers.
Haibatullah, a Kandahar religious scholar whose son was a suicide bomber, is expected to play a theocratic role similar to that played by Iran’s supreme leader. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder and deputy director of the movement who was imprisoned in Pakistan, is likely to be appointed head of government.
Other Taliban officials expected to hold senior positions include Sirajuddin Haqqani, another deputy leader, Mohammad Yaqoob, son of the Taliban founder Mullah Muhammad Omar, who died in 2013.
A senior Taliban leader, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, said on Wednesday that women could continue to work but that “there may not” be a place for them in the cabinet, prompting a rare protest Thursday by 50 women for the right to freedom. work and lack. of the participation of women in the new government.
Basira Taheri, one of the organizers of the protest in Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city, told AFP that she wanted the Taliban to include women in the new cabinet. “We want the Taliban to consult with us,” Taheri said. “We don’t see any women in their meetings and meetings.”
The new government will face enormous challenges. The UN has warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe across the country of 40 million people amid severe drought, growing food insecurity and the upheavals of a 20-year war that forced thousands of families to flee their homes. .
Food stocks distributed by the UN will likely be depleted across much of the country by the end of September, the organization’s humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan has said, and food shortages and other needs have already been widely reported.
Hourly queues outside banks and high prices in Kabul’s bazaars have underscored the growing daily concerns facing the capital’s population.
Afghanistan desperately needs money, but despite assurances from the new Taliban-appointed head of the central bank, the Taliban are unlikely to get quick access to roughly $ 10bn (£ 7.25bn) in assets in their most held abroad by the Afghan central bank.
In a sign of where Afghanistan can now turn for international help, Zabiullah Mujahid, official spokesman for the new regime, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that China was “our main partner and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us, as the Chinese government is ready to invest and rebuild our country.”
Mujahid said the Taliban “are very concerned about the ‘one belt, one road’ project. We own rich copper mines that, thanks to the Chinese, will be modernized. Finally, China represents our ticket to markets around the world. “
When asked about the Taliban’s relationship with Russia, he said that relations with Moscow were “primarily political and economic. Russia continues to mediate for us and with us to create the conditions for international peace ”.
The Taliban have promised to allow safe passage out of the country for foreigners or Afghans leaving behind the huge airlift that ended the withdrawal of the last US troops on Monday, but the Kabul airport remained closed Thursday.
Domestic flights from the airport, which will be vital for humanitarian operations, will resume on Friday, Al Jazeera reported, adding that while a Qatari technical team assessed the damage, the return of international air traffic that would allow more evacuations would take “some weather “.
With Reuters and AFP
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism