Wanted men and no women: Taliban announce new government of Afghanistan

Women and members of the previous administration excluded from the Cabinet

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The Taliban on Tuesday named its first government since taking over Afghanistan three weeks ago, led by old faces prominent in the 20-year fight against the US.

Members of the previous administration, women and Afghanistan's complex ethnic groups are absent from the list, despite international calls for an inclusive government.

Hassan Akhund, leader of the Taliban in the years before their expulsion in the 2001 US invasion, will serve as interim prime minister. Abdul Ghani Baradar, lead negotiator in talks with the US, will be his deputy, alongside Abdul Salam Hanafi.

The group's interior ministry will be led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is the chief of the semi-autonomous Haqqani network and is on the US sanctions list. He also appears on the FBI's Most Wanted list, with a $5 million reward for his capture.

Mohammad Yaqoob will serve as defence minister. He is the son of deceased Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar. The chief of the army will be Qari Fasihuddin, who led the Taliban's fight to capture Panjshir.

The line-up also includes two men freed from US custody at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl in 2014. Abdul Haq Wasiq will lead the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's top intelligence agency, and Khairullah Khairkhwa will head the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Mr Khairkhwa's deputy will be Zabihullah Mujahid, who has acted as the group's spokesman in recent months, sending missives on social media.

The Taliban's foreign minister will be Amir Khan Mottaki, one of the group's top negotiators and a fixture at negotiations with the US in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Perhaps one of the most difficult jobs will go to Hidayatullah Badri, who will need to helm the Ministry of Finance as aid agencies and international partners pull money from the country in protest at the Taliban takeover of the country.

The Women's Ministry has been removed from the list of Cabinet positions.

It was not clear what role in the government would be played by Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban leader, who released his first statement since the collapse of the western-backed government and the seizure of Kabul by the Taliban last month shortly after the announcement of the Cabinet.

"I assure all the countrymen that the figures will work hard towards upholding Islamic rules and sharia law in the country," Akhundzada, who has never been seen in public, said in a statement released in English.

Updated: September 8th 2021, 6:27 AM
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