The Taliban won the war and the government that they announced that Tuesday responds strictly to that reality. Promises to try to form an “inclusive” government have not been kept. By such was meant a Cabinet that included non-Taliban figures and representatives of the other ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Thirty of the 33 ministers are Pashtuns.
None of its members is a woman. Not a surprise, but it confirms that women become second-class citizens. Pashtun fundamentalists do not accept that they have any other role than the traditional one assigned to a woman in the rural environment from which most of the new leaders of the country come.
The fact that young women have been allowed, at least in Kabul, to continue attending university – but in classrooms where a curtain separates men from women – is a significant change from what happened in the Taliban government. of the nineties. This does not mean that their right to occupy relevant positions in society will be respected.
The former insurgents and now rulers know very well that one of the reasons they held out for twenty years is that they maintained their unity, a rare feature among groups that have ruled the country since the early 1980s. That was the reason they kept a secret for two years the natural death of Mullah Omar in 2013, its undisputed leader in its first stage of Government. The different factions that made up the Taliban leadership finally managed to reach the necessary consensus to elect their replacement, Akhtar Mansour, who died three years later in a North American air attack.
The next appointment of the supreme leader of the movement was that of Hibatullah Akundzada, one of the first founders of the Taliban in 1994. He was always dedicated to religious functions, not military ones. Akundzada is now Emir of Afghanistan, the highest religious and political authority in the country, above the Government.
The high number of ministers (33) reveals the intention to please all sectors and clans that were represented in the Taliban leadership, including those who were leading the war on the ground. Above all of them stands out the new Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani clan, of whom the Western intelligence services have always highlighted his direct relations with Al Qaeda and the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence services).
The FBI is still looking for Haqqani for his connection to an attack that killed an American citizen. Offer a reward of five million dollars for him. Many Afghans – in addition to the previous government – accuse Haqqani of having been responsible for the suicide bombing campaigns against the civilian population in Kabul throughout the war.
The Interior portfolio will allow Haqqani to control provincial governors.
The other important figure in the Cabinet is the Minister of Defense, Mohamad Yaqub. He is the eldest son of Mullah Omar. Both Yaqub and Haqqani led the military operations in the war and reported only to Hibatullah Akundzada. Yaqub is quite young, in his early 30s, which at the time prevented him from being chosen as his father’s successor.
As head of the Government, he has been elected Hassan Akhund. His proximity from the origins of the movement to Mullah Omar is one of the reasons for his permanent presence at the top of the group since 2001. Before that he had been deputy governor of Kandahar and foreign minister. In the Cabinet, his second will be Abdul Ghani Baradar, of whom the western media said a few weeks ago that he would be the head.
He spent eight years in a Pakistani prison until the Donald Trump Administration asked Islamabad to release him so that he could participate in the Qatari negotiations. It is possible that the Taliban thought that, in order not to damage relations with their neighbor, it was more convenient to place Akhund at the head of the government. Akhund is on the list of Taliban leaders subject to UN sanctions.
Despite the terrible economic situation in the country, which has only survived so far due to international aid, a person with no knowledge of the matter has been elected Minister of the Economy. Din Mohammad Hanif will take care of the portfolio, although he only has religious studies. He was part of the Taliban negotiating team in Qatar with the US. Although he is of Tajik origin, he has been with the Taliban since its founding. He enlisted in their ranks when he was a young student at a religious center.
It is undoubtedly a government formed by the hard core of the Taliban without concessions to the West. The question now is whether that will be an obstacle to the possible resumption of aid, if only for self-serving reasons in the face of the danger that an even greater economic collapse will cause a mass exodus out of the country. The Biden Administration has said it will not cut off strictly humanitarian aid. He has never said that he is going to hand over the 9,000 million dollars of the Afghan reserves that are blocked in the US Federal Reserve nor of the credits of the World Bank that will not continue without the express permission of Washington.
The Taliban have invited representatives from China, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Qatar to the inauguration ceremony. Countries like Turkey and Iran will not be happy at all about the absence of prominent figures from the Uzbek and Tajik communities in the Cabinet. In any case, that is the bet of the new Afghan rulers to avoid the isolation they suffered between 1996 and 2001.