Taliban name acting central bank chief as country faces financial crunch

The former head of Afghanistan's regulator fled on August 15 when the militants seized power

The Taliban have appointed an acting governor of Afghanistan's central bank to help ease growing economic turmoil, more than a week after the militants seized the capital, Kabul, a statement said on Monday.

Haji Mohammad Idris was named as acting central bank chief to help bring order to a war-ravaged economy, which has been adrift for more than a week with banks closed and many government offices empty.

He is expected to help organise institutions and address the economic issues facing the population, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Afghanistan's lenders are expected to require central bank support to manage afghani and US dollar liquidity once they reopen, said a senior Afghan banker.

"If this uncertainty remains, then customers will withdraw more funds and banks would need bigger support from [the central bank]," the banker said, referring to withdrawals in the immediate run-up to the bank closures.

The appointment, which came as Iran resumed fuel exports to Afghanistan, comes amid increasingly acute economic problems, with government workers unpaid, many businesses closed and growing pressure on prices of staples, including food and fuel.

With many senior officials and others associated with the western-backed government in hiding or exile, the Taliban have been trying to persuade specialists and technical experts to return to work to get the economy back on its feet.

A senior Taliban official said Mr Idris, from the northern province of Jawzjan, had long experience working on financial issues with the previous leader of the movement, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a drone strike in 2016.

While Mr Idris had no public profile outside the movement and no formal financial training or higher education, he was head of the movement's finance section and respected for his expertise, a senior Taliban leader said.

"There are many people who were unknown to the world but they held key positions and had great contributions. Haji Idris is among them," he said. "I believe he has not even studied religious studies but was expert in financial matters."

Updated: August 24th 2021, 4:44 AM
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