Taliban criticised for reneging on inclusive Afghan government promise

Make-up of Taliban’s Cabinet has drawn sharp criticism from Afghan analysts and former political leaders

Tuesday’s announcement of the Taliban's Cabinet to rule Afghanistan belied the militant group’s claims that it would include women and ethnic minorities.

The Cabinet does not include any women or people from the Hazara minority, and largely consists of Taliban leaders with many members of the Haqqani clan, a military ally.

“Inclusivity would mean they talk to Afghans, which includes civil society, women, different ethnic groups including minorities, before creating a cabinet," said Lima Ahmad, PhD candidate in international security and conflict resolution at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

"Who did they talk to or consult with before putting this Cabinet together?

“Nearly everyone in the Cabinet is a Mullah [religious leader]. It is a mistake to believe that this is all Afghanistan represents."

Ms Ahmad said the choices lacked demographic balance and dismissed Afghan values.

“Why was there no Loya Jirga held to pick the minister, where representatives of Afghan tribes could weigh in?” she asked.

The Loya Jirga is the traditional grand assembly of tribal elders, which holds a common place in Afghan politics.

“Everything about this has been flawed and doesn’t allow any room for any discussion,” Ms Ahmad said.

Sabir Ibrahimi, non-resident fellow at Centre on International Co-operation at New York University, raised similar concerns.

“This Cabinet is not representative of Afghanistan," Mr Ibrahimi said. "This Cabinet is just representative of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.

"We don’t see any Hazara or women in this list, or even any major Tajik or Uzbek representation."

He said that, understandably, the Taliban were “answering to their constituencies”.

“They had to do that, accommodate the Haqqanis for instance,” Mr Ibrahimi said.

Ms Ahmad said that while several of the Taliban's Cabinet members were on UN terror lists, the new Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani is also wanted by the FBI, and the Haqqani Network is a US-designated terrorist organisation.

“It includes four Haqqani members, most of whom have a bounty on their heads and now are official Cabinet members of the Taliban government," she said. "I am particularly worried about giving the Ministry of Interior to Saraj Haqqani.

"We know the group’s capacity for brutality and terrorism, and now formally handing over the law enforcement ministry wherein the police would be under his control is very distressing.

"I fear for my country, I fear for my people, because that person is very brutal."

Mr Ibrahimi said the composition of the Cabinet was testament to the fact that the group never had any real intentions of engaging in political settlement.

“They just wanted to win this war decisively, which they did, and establish their Cabinet which is predominantly Taliban,” he said.

Similar reactions came from Afghanistan’s recently ousted political leaders.

“The Taliban announced a government that has no place in the country's constitution and lacks professionalism,” said Tajik leader Atta Noor, who until recently held control over large areas of the north.

Mr Noor was forced to flee the country, along with recent ally and Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, shortly after the fall of Balkh province on August 14.

Both of the former Mujahideen leaders are in Uzbekistan.

But the decision to appease their followers could backfire on the Taliban.

“There are a lot of Mullahs and Maulavis in the Cabinet. They haven’t given a lot of positions to technical people and that is one of the major issues they will face,” Mr Ibrahimi said.

“These people aren’t necessarily experts in finance or health care or other areas to be able to manage the issues of that sector."

Mr Noor asked: “Is it possible to manage dozens of specialised departments with those whose level of insight into governance is based on medieval governance principles?”

Experts said this lack of inclusivity might cost the Taliban, who have struggled to form a government despite having seized control of the Afghan capital weeks ago.

“I don’t believe it will be welcomed by a lot of people in Afghanistan and the resistance will continue in some shape or form," Mr Ibrahimi said.

"Not just the armed resistance by Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh, but also by the women and the minorities who may have hoped for some form of inclusive government,."

An anti-Taliban front in Panjshir province has continued to mount offensives against the group.

Protests erupting across Kabul and other major cities and provinces have proved difficult for the Taliban to quell.

“It is just a recipe for the prolongation of the conflict,” Mr Ibrahimi said.

Ms Ahmad dismissed the government entirely.

“First of all, I don’t want this government. But more importantly, there are currently protests taking place around the country even as people fight in Panjshir," she said.

"The Taliban have blocked their food, medicine, humanitarian aid, even as they present us with a Cabinet of Mullahs.

"The world or the US or the UN, if they have any leverage, now is the time to pressure them."

Updated: September 8th 2021, 6:24 AM
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