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Taliban will today unveil Afghanistan’s new government with presidential palace ceremony

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Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers are set to unveil their new government today as the country’s economy teeters on the verge of collapse amid food shortage warnings.

The impending announcement comes more than two weeks after the Islamist militia captured Kabul and brought a chaotic and deadly end to 20 years of war, with the Taliban now back in control of the country as they were from 1996 to 2001.

Taliban official Ahmadullah Muttaqi said on social media a ceremony was being prepared at the presidential palace in Kabul after the US withdrawal, while private broadcaster TOLONews said an announcement on a new government was imminent.

Meanwhile, one-third of the country is facing food insecurity and is in desperate need of funds, according to the World Food Programme amid warnings of a humanitarian crisis in the country. 

The legitimacy of the new government in the eyes of international donors and investors will be crucial for the economy as the country battles drought and the ravages of a conflict that took the lives of an estimated 240,000 Afghans.

But the Taliban are unlikely to get quick access to around $10 billion of assets held  abroad by the Afghan central bank, and are struggling to reassure banks that the economy under the group will be fully functional. 

Pictured: Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, August 15, 2021. Now, Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers are set to unveil their new government as the country’s economy is on the verge of ruin

It is expected that the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, will have ultimate power over a new governing council, with a president below him, a senior Taliban official told Reuters news agency last month. 

The supreme Taliban leader has three deputies: Mawlavi Yaqoob, son of the movement’s late founder Mullah Omar; Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the powerful Haqqani network who the FBI have offered a $5 million reward for finding; and Abdul Ghani Baradar, who founded the group along with Mullah Omar in 1994.

An unelected leadership council is how the Taliban ran their first government which brutally enforced a radical form of Sharia law from 1996 until its ouster by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

Speculation is rife about the make-up of a new government, although a senior official said Wednesday that women were unlikely to be included.  

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, Inayatulhaq Yasini – the deputy head of the Taliban political office in Qatar – said that women ‘may not’ be included.

Women are feared to be some of the most at-risk people under the new Taliban regime, despite assurances given by the group.

When the Islamists came to power in 1996 after the country’s terrifying Civil War, they imposed theocracy and brutalised and oppressed women and girls, who were denied education and employment, and punished in horrific ways for breaking rules. 

Pictured: Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the Taliban. He is expected to have ultimate power over a new governing council, with a president below him

Pictured: Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the supreme leader of the Taliban. He is expected to have ultimate power over a new governing council, with a president below him

Pictured: Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar speaks at a signing ceremony of the US-Taliban agreement in Qatar's capital Doha, February 29, 2020. He is one of three deputy leaders under supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada

Pictured: Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar speaks at a signing ceremony of the US-Taliban agreement in Qatar’s capital Doha, February 29, 2020. He is one of three deputy leaders under supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada

The Taliban have tried to present a more moderate face to the world since they swept aside the U.S.-backed government and returned to power last month, promising to protect human rights and refrain from reprisals against old enemies.

But the United States, the European Union and others have cast doubt on such assurances, saying formal recognition of the new government – and the economic aid that would flow from that – is contingent on action.

‘We’re not going to take them at their word, we’re going to take them at their deeds,’ U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland told a news briefing on Wednesday.

‘So they’ve got a lot to prove based on their own track record … now they also have a lot to gain, if they can run Afghanistan, far, far differently than they did the last time they were in power.’

Gunnar Wiegand, the European Commission’s managing director for Asia and the Pacific, said the European Union would not formally recognise the Islamist group until it met conditions including the formation of an inclusive government, respect for human rights and unfettered access for aid workers. 

Speaking to the BBC, Akhundzada said on Wednesday: ‘All ethnic groups that are living in Afghanistan – they’re Afghans – they have a right to be in the government.

‘But future government – the next government – they will be selected as per [their] merit. All those Afghans who have the ability, capacity and capability to work according to their profession – they will be in the government,’ he claimed.

However, on Women, he said: ‘I cannot say they will be on the top. If they are not on the top, maybe, they will be in the government in the lower positions – because every department of the government -almost half of the workers are women – so they can come back to their work and they can continue.

‘But in this new government which is being announced – in the top posts – i mean to say in the cabinet – there may not be women.’  

Pictured: A man believed to be Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the powerful Haqqani network and Taliban deputy leader

Pictured: An FBI wanted poster offering $5 million a reward for Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the powerful Haqqani network and Taliban deputy leader

Pictured: A man believed to be Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the powerful Haqqani network and Taliban deputy leader (left) and an FBI wanted poster (right) offering a $5 million reward for his whereabouts. He is believed to have been responsible for mltiple attacks in Afghanistan

Pictured: Mullah Omar, the original founder of the Taliban. His son, Mawlavi Yaqoob is one of the three deputy leaders of the Taliban and is expected to be involved in the government

Pictured: Mullah Omar, the original founder of the Taliban. His son, Mawlavi Yaqoob is one of the three deputy leaders of the Taliban and is expected to be involved in the government

In the western city of Herat, some 50 women took to the streets in a rare, defiant protest for the right to work and over the lack of women’s participation in the new government.

‘It is our right to have education, work and security,’ the protesters chanted in unison, said an AFP journalist who witnessed the protest. ‘We are not afraid, we are united,’ they added.

Herat is a relatively cosmopolitan city on the ancient silk road near the Iranian border. It is one of the more prosperous in Afghanistan and girls have already returned to school there.

One of the organisers of the protest, Basira Taheri, told AFP she wanted the Taliban to include women in the new cabinet.

‘We want the Taliban to hold consultations with us,’ Taheri said. ‘We don’t see any women in their gatherings and meetings.’

Among the 122,000 people who fled Afghanistan in a frenzied US-led airlift that ended on Monday was the first female Afghan journalist to interview a Taliban official live on television.

Speaking to AFP in Qatar, the former anchor for the Tolo News media group said women in Afghanistan were ‘in a very bad situation’.

‘I want to say to the international community – please do anything (you can) for Afghan women,’ Beheshta Arghand said. 

Pictured: A burqa-clad woman walks past an electronic shop in Kabul on September 2, 2021. According to the World Food Programme, one-third of the country is facing food insecurity and is in desperate need of funds

Pictured: A burqa-clad woman walks past an electronic shop in Kabul on September 2, 2021. According to the World Food Programme, one-third of the country is facing food insecurity and is in desperate need of funds

Humanitarian organisations have warned of catastrophe as severe drought and the upheavals of war have forced thousands of families to flee their homes.

According to the World Food Programme, one-third of Afghanistan is facing food insecurity, with the WFP’s director David Beasley telling Fox News the organisation is looking to raised $200 million for the country by the end of 2021.

Afghanistan desperately needs money, and the Taliban are unlikely to get swift access to the roughly $10 billion in assets mostly held abroad by the Afghan central bank.

The new, Taliban-appointed central bank head has sought to reassure banks the group wants a fully functioning financial system, but has given little detail on how it will provide the liquidity needed, bankers familiar with the matter said.  

To make matters worse, Afghanistan’s real gross domestic product is expected to shrink by 9.7 percent this financial year, with a further drop of 5.2 percent seen next year, said analysts in a report from Fitch Solutions, the research arm of ratings agency Fitch Group.

Foreign investment would be needed to support a more optimistic outlook, a scenario which assumed ‘some major economies, namely China and potentially Russia, would accept the Taliban as the legitimate government’, Fitch said.

While the Taliban are cementing control of Kabul and provincial capitals, they are fighting with opposition groups and remnants of the Afghan army holding out in mountains north of the capital.

Senior Taliban leader Amir Khan Motaqi called on the rebels in Panjshir province to surrender, saying ‘the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is home for all Afghans’, referring to the Taliban-run state.

Opposition leader Ahmad Massoud, son of a former mujahideen commander who fought against the Taliban in northeastern Afghanistan in the late 1990s, told CNN his forces were fighting for a ‘decentralised state where power is equally distributed between the different ethnic and sectarian groups’.

‘Unfortunately, the Taliban have not changed, and they still are after dominance throughout the country,’ he said.

Taliban fighters stand on an armoured vehicle parade along a road to celebrate after the US pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan, in Kandahar on September 1, 2021 following the Talibans military takeover of the country

Taliban fighters stand on an armoured vehicle parade along a road to celebrate after the US pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan, in Kandahar on September 1, 2021 following the Talibans military takeover of the country

In Kabul, residents voiced worry over the country’s long-running economic difficulties, now seriously compounded by the militant movement’s takeover.

‘With the arrival of the Taliban, it’s right to say that there is security, but business has gone down below zero,’ Karim Jan, an electronic goods shop owner, told AFP.

The United Nations warned earlier this week of a looming ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Afghanistan, as it called to ensure that those wanting to flee the new regime still have a way out. 

Meanwhile, the Taliban has promised to allow safe passage out of the country for any foreigners or Afghans left behind by the massive airlift which ended with the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops on Monday, but with Kabul airport still closed many were seeking to flee overland to neighbouring countries.

A Qatari technical team had arrived in Kabul to discuss the resumption of operations at the airport, which would facilitate humanitarian assistance and further evacuations, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will visit Doha on Thursday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Raab’s office said.

‘The prospects of getting Kabul airport up and running and safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans across land borders (are) top of the agenda,’ the British Foreign Office said in a statement. 

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