Taliban Co-founder Baradar expected to Lead New Afghanistan Government

The Taliban are expected to form a government as early as Friday as it faces domestic and international pressure to rule Afghanistan with greater tolerance, especially on women’s rights.

The announcement of a new administration could be made after Friday afternoon prayers, two Taliban sources told the AFP news agency.

Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar will lead a new Afghan government that could be announced soon, other sources in the Islamist group said on Friday, as it battled rebel fighters while striving to ward off economic collapse.

Baradar, who heads the Taliban’s political office, will be joined by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, in senior positions in the government, three sources said.

“All the top leaders have arrived in Kabul, where preparations are in final stages to announce the new government,” one Taliban official told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban, which seized Kabul on Aug. 15 after sweeping across most of the country, have faced resistance in the Panjshir Valley, north of the capital, with reports of heavy fighting here and casualties.

Several thousand fighters of regional militias and remnants of the government’s armed forces have massed in the rugged valley under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud here, the son of former Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Efforts to negotiate a settlement appear to have broken down, with each side blaming the other for the failure.

The government’s legitimacy in the eyes of international donors and investors will be crucial for an economy grappling with drought and the ravages of a conflict that killed an estimated 240,000 Afghans.

Humanitarian groups have warned of impending catastrophe and the economy, reliant for years on many millions of dollars of foreign aid, is close to collapse.

Many Afghans were struggling to feed their families amid severe drought well before the Taliban took power and millions may now face starvation, aid agencies say.

“Since August 15, we have seen the crisis accelerate and magnify, with the imminent economic collapse that is coming this country’s way,” Mary-Ellen McGroarty here, the director of the World Food Programme in Afghanistan, told Reuters from Kabul.

While the West has adopted a wait-and-see approach to the Taliban, there were some signs of engagement with the new leaders gathering pace.

The United Nations said it had restarted humanitarian flights to parts of the country, linking the Pakistani capital Islamabad with Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and Kandahar in the south.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have been internally displaced due to the recent violence. As many as half a million others are also estimated to become refugees in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and Iran.

The country’s main airport in Kabul remains closed but is expected to reopen in days with the help of technical experts from Qatar.

 

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