Taliban to announce government amid Panjshir offensive

Taliban to announce government in next few days, as Panshjir offensive begins
3 min read
02 September, 2021
The Taliban have indicated that they will announce their government soon, as negotiations to broker a settlement with the final bastion of anti-Taliban resistance have collapsed.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid spoke to The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed [Getty]

The Taliban is set to announce its government in Afghanistan "very soon", a spokesman has told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, as the chief of the group's political office indicated that no women would be appointed to ministerial roles.

In exclusive remarks to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Zabiullah Mujahid rejected reports suggesting names slated for the cabinet, saying they were "inaccurate".

Local reports suggest that Mullah Ghani Baradar, Taliban co-founder and top negotiator of the Doha deal with the US, could serve as the foreign minister.

Mullah Yaqoob, the son of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, could also take the portfolio for defence minister, while Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Taliban’s hardline Haqqani Network, is thought to be a potential candidate to lead the interior ministry.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Shir Abbas Stanikzai, the head of Taliban's political office, was tight-lipped about candidates.

Stanikzai said that the group would announce its government in the coming days but that figures from the previous administration and women would be excluded from senior ministerial roles.

He said that women could work in junior roles.

The announcements follow days of meetings in Kandahar involving the group's senior leadership and led by Taliban Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada, according to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed Afghanistan correspondent Sibghatullah Saber.

Saber told The New Arab that decisions had been finalised but would likely be revealed in phased announcements over the next few days, adding that it was contingent on the situation in the valley on Panjshir, where a rebellion against Taliban rule is brewing.

On Wednesday, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed obtained an audio message from senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Muttaqi declaring that efforts to broker a settlement with the anti-Taliban opposition based in Panjshir had failed.

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Clashes in several areas of the remote mountainous terrain and nearby provinces indicate a Taliban offensive against the Tajik-dominated resistance group - which is composed of government special forces and ethnic militias - is in the making.

The resistance also counts former Vice President Amrullah Saleh among its ranks.

The Taliban said on Thursday that their fighters entered Panjshir and had captured some territory in the region.

A spokesman for the National Resistance of Afghanistan (NRF) group maintained that the rebels had control over all its passes and entrances in Panjshir, pushing back efforts to take the district of Shotul.

Despite the Pashtun-dominated Taliban's insistence that its future government would be inclusive and feature Afghanistan’s numerous ethnolinguistic groups and religious sects, analysts say that the movement's current successes mean it is unlikely to accommodate opposition demands, which include greater autonomy for Panjshir.

"The resistance forces want an inclusive government, political reform, including decentralisation and respect for human rights. But given the Taliban's current advantageous position, they seem reluctant to make any concessions on fundamental issues," said Kaweh Kerami, a doctoral researcher at SOAS and expert on Afghanistan, in comments to The New Arab.

"They believe, the war is over and they have won. That is why the Taliban have started their military campaign, hoping to take over the last stronghold of the resistance forces before announcing their government."