A week after retaking power in Afghanistan through stunning military victories, leaders of the Taliban insurgency are still conducting internal talks and meetings with former rivals on forming what they have promised will be an “inclusive Islamic government.”
The framework for the formation of the new government is expected to be announced soon, Taliban officials in Kabul said Saturday.
Senior Taliban leaders held fresh meetings Saturday with prominent figures in the Afghan capital to exchange views on the future governance system, said Mohamad Naeem, the group’s political spokesman.
He quoted a senior leader, Shahabuddin Dilawar, as telling Afghan interlocutors that the Taliban want a “strong central system that respects the rule of law, is free from corruption and every citizen has the opportunity to serve his country and people.”
The Taliban opened the political engagements after issuing a blanket amnesty for all who served or were part of the former Afghan government.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy Taliban leader, also has arrived in Kabul from the Islamist group’s southern stronghold of Kandahar to oversee the process of forming the government.
Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, returned to Afghanistan this week from Qatar, where he headed the group’s political office and oversaw peace negotiations with the United States that culminated in the February 2020 landmark deal that paved the way for U.S.-led allied troops to withdraw from nearly 20 years of war in Afghanistan.
Abdullah Abdullah, coalition partner of the self-exiled President Ashraf Ghani, and former President Hamid Karzai have held repeated meetings with Taliban leaders over the past few days.
After a meeting Saturday, Abdullah said via Twitter that he and Karzai welcomed Taliban leaders at his residence.
“We exchanged views on the current security & political developments, & an inclusive political settlement for the future of the country,” Abdullah wrote.
Meanwhile, thousands of Afghans continued to swamp the Kabul airport in hopes of finding place on one of the flights the U.S. military and other countries are operating to evacuate foreign personnel and Afghans who served international forces in different capacities.
The White House said Saturday that in the last 24 hours, six U.S. military C-17s and 32 charter flights had departed the Afghan capital, evacuating about 3,800 passengers.
“Since the end of July, we have relocated approximately 22,000 people. Since August 14th, we have evacuated approximately 17,000 people,” it said.
Nod to journalists
Separately, the Taliban announced Saturday the formation of a special tripartite commission, including representatives of the police and the media, to address complaints and concerns of male and female journalists.
The fundamentalist group has been accused of not allowing at least two female journalists to work at the state-run broadcaster in Afghanistan. The Taliban have not responded to the allegations.
The Taliban are under international pressure to form a government where all ethnic and minority groups have proper representation, and the human rights of Afghans are protected.
The United States and the rest of the global community have warned the Taliban that running the country any other way would prolong the Afghan civil war and that they would not recognize such a government.
Since capturing Kabul last Sunday, the group has attempted to present a softer image of the Taliban by promising to respect women’s rights and urging them to participate in their government.
During their previous regime in Kabul, the Taliban enforced a strict interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic law, under which women could leave home only if escorted by a male relative, and girls were barred from education, among other controversial policies.
An internationally recognized government is key for Afghanistan to receive foreign funding, enabling the Taliban to pay salaries and continue social sector development projects in the conflict-torn country, one of the world’s poorest nations.
The U.S. has frozen Afghan government reserves in U.S. banks, and the International Monetary Fund has halted release of emergency funds to Kabul.
Taliban rulers, analysts warn, will soon face economic challenges, such as paying salaries to government employees and ensuring the running of other projects, if international funding sources remain suspended.
Payment of salaries
The Taliban attempted Saturday to assure government employees, saying the ministry of finance would pay the salaries of all Afghan civil servants until the establishment of “new Islamic government.”
The announcement promised that private and public banks, as well as custom and financial activities, would also resume soon.
On Friday, the Taliban suffered a military reversal in the northern Afghan province of Baghlan, where fighters loyal to the former government captured three districts and killed more than a dozen Taliban fighters.
Reports said Taliban fighters from surrounding districts and province had reached the area to fight back. Taliban officials denounced the attack as a betrayal of the amnesty and vowed to retake the lost area soon.