The Taliban announced the first members of a caretaker Afghan government on Tuesday, naming Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund as acting prime minister and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as acting deputy prime minister.
Why it matters: Many have been waiting to learn the makeup and policies of the new Islamist government before deciding whether to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.
- “The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is: any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned,” Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in an address last week, as he urged the group to uphold its commitments on human rights and counterterrorism.
- The U.S., other countries and international organizations plan to continue sending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but it’s unclear whether and how many of those entities will engage directly with the Taliban in doing so.
Details … The temporary Cabinet is dominated by senior, old-guard Taliban officials, including the leader of the Haqqani network — a faction of the militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S:
- Acting prime minister: Muhammad Hassan Akhund, little-known head of Taliban leadership council and UN-designated terrorist
- Acting deputy prime minister: Abdul Ghani Baradar, original Taliban co-founder and head of Doha political office
- Acting interior minister: Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is wanted by the FBI for terrorism activity
- Acting defense minister: Mohammad Yaqoob, son of late Taliban founder Mohammed Omar
- Acting foreign minister: Amir Khan Muttaqi
- Acting deputy foreign minister: Abas Stanikzai
Flashback: Baradar was one of the four original founders of the Taliban in 1994 and served in various positions of leadership from 1996 to 2001. Following the U.S. invasion and the Taliban’s fall, he fled to Pakistan.
- In 201o, Baradar was captured by Pakistani forces in Karachi but released from prison in 2018 after former President Trump’s Afghanistan envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, requested his release so that Baradar could help lead the peace negotiations.
- His release from prison was intended as a gesture of goodwill to get the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.
The big picture: Since their swift takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban have offered vague assurances that they have changed since the days of their totalitarian, oppressive rule of the 1990s — pledging to form an “inclusive” government and allow women’s freedoms “within Islamic law.”
- No women or non-Taliban figures were named to the caretaker government on Tuesday.
- Their rhetoric has also been undermined in many cases by the actions of Taliban fighters on the ground, with countless reports of revenge killings and women being blocked from work or school over the past several weeks.
- It remains to be seen how well the Taliban will be able to maintain control over Afghanistan in the face of protests and ongoing resistance from opposition groups in the northern part of the country.