Moving to government, Taliban to appoint Afghan supreme leader

During the second full day without US troops on Afghan soil, the Taliban decided on Wednesday to form a new Islamic government, preparin...


During the second full day without US troops on Afghan soil, the Taliban decided on Wednesday to form a new Islamic government, preparing to appoint the movement’s main religious figure, Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, as the country’s supreme authority, said Taliban officials.

The Taliban face a daunting challenge, moving from insurgency to governance after two decades of insurgents who fought international and Afghan forces, planted roadside bombs and planned mass bombings in urban centers densely populated.

Now, with the Taliban regime fully restored 20 years after its overthrow by the US-led invasion in 2001, the group faces the responsibility of leading a country of some 40 million people devastated by more than 40 years of war.

There are hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and much of the population lives in crushing poverty, all amid a punitive drought and a Covid-19 pandemic. Food stocks distributed by the United Nations will likely be depleted for much of Afghanistan by the end of September, said Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan.

The economy is in free fall following the freezing of $ 9.4 billion in Afghan currency reserves in the United States, part of a liquidity pipeline that has long supported a fragile US-backed government dependent on foreign aid. Funds have also been cut by international lenders, including the International Monetary Fund, pushing up inflation and undermining the weakness of the national currency, the afghani.

Electricity service, erratic and unreliable at best, is failing, residents say. Fear keeps a lot of people at home instead of working and shopping. Shortages of food and other essentials have been reported in a country that imports much of its food, fuel and electricity. One third of Afghans were already facing what the United Nations called crisis levels of food insecurity.

Taliban officials did not say when the new government leadership would be announced. But the group was under intense pressure to fill a political vacuum created by the rapid collapse of the US-backed government of former President Ashraf Ghani, who, like many other officials, fled the country when Taliban forces closed on August 15.

Sheikh Haibatullah, a pragmatic but fiercely devout religious scholar from Kandahar, officials said, should take on a theocratic role similar to that of Iran’s supreme leader. Her son was trained to become Suicide bomber, and at 23, blew himself up in an attack in Helmand province, according to the Taliban.

Taliban leaders, including Sheikh Haibatullah, gathered in Kandahar, according to Taliban officials. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a respected co-founder of the Taliban and one of their current MPs, is expected to be in charge of day-to-day business as head of government, officials said.

Mr. Baradar served a similar role during the Taliban’s early years in exile, leading the movement’s operations until its arrest by Pakistan in 2010.

After three years in a Pakistani prison and several others under house arrest, Mr. Baradar was released in 2019, then led the Taliban delegation negotiating the troop withdrawal agreement reached with the Trump administration in February 2020.

Other key positions in government are expected to fall to Sirajuddin Haqqani, another influential deputy and chief of operations within the movement, and Mawlawi Muhammad Yaqoub, who is the son of the founder of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who led the group until his death in 2013.

Mr. Haqqani, 48, who helped lead the Taliban’s military operations, is also a leader of the brutal Haqqani Network, a Taliban mafia wing largely based in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border. The network was responsible for hostage-taking, attacks on US forces, complex suicide bombings and targeted assassinations.

Wednesday’s political developments injected a jolt of reality into the Taliban, whose members celebrated with gunfire and fireworks after the last plane of US troops and equipment flew from the Kabul airport just before midnight Monday. On Tuesday, senior Taliban leaders led reporters on a triumphant tour of the sacked airport just hours after it was occupied by US troops.

Today, the Taliban are struggling for international aid and diplomatic recognition. The United States’ relationship with former insurgents is entering a tense new phase, in which each side depends on the crucial decisions made by its longtime adversary.

The Taliban have cooperated with the US military evacuation efforts, but that doesn’t mean more cooperation is coming, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday. “I wouldn’t make any logical leaps to bigger issues,” he said. “It’s hard to predict where this will go. “

Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Taliban remained “a ruthless bunch,” but when asked if the two sides could work together against a common enemy, the Islamic State Khorasan, he said: “It is possible.”

A key question is how much, if any, economic aid the United States will offer and how it will ensure that aid goes to Afghans in need rather than to the Taliban government.

The Taliban are also fighting stubborn opposition forces led by National Resistance Front leaders in Panjshir province and other parts of northern Afghanistan, where anti-Taliban sentiment has always been strong. There were conflicting claims on Wednesday, with Taliban supporters claiming their fighters had made progress and resistance leaders claiming they had repelled a Taliban assault.

Panjshir, a stronghold of former Northern Alliance commanders, was one of the few areas in Afghanistan not under Taliban control when the group ruled the country from 1996 to 2001.

The Taliban’s transition to governance hinges on years of patiently building a so-called shadow government at the provincial, district and even village levels. In Taliban-controlled areas, many Afghans learned to rely on this shadow government for basic services, such as resolving legal disputes, rather than turning to a deeply corrupt national government that was not in operation. measure or did not want to serve outlying areas.

After a military evacuation that caused more than 123,000 people to flee Afghanistan in 18 days, mostly Afghans, 100 to 200 Americans stay in the country, President Biden said on Tuesday. Some stayed by choice. Others were unable to reach Kabul airport.

Tens of thousands of Afghans who have helped the United States or its international partners also remain stranded, according to estimates by American officials. Many are permanent residents of the United States who were traveling to Afghanistan when the government and military collapsed at staggering speed and the Taliban took control on August 15.

Taliban officials reiterated public insurance that Afghans with appropriate passports and visas would be allowed to leave the country, regardless of their role during the 20-year US mission in Afghanistan.

On 6,000 Americans, the vast majority of whom have dual US-Afghan nationality, were evacuated after Aug. 14, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Tuesday. In early spring, the US embassy in Kabul began warning Americans to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, citing a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

Mr Blinken described “extraordinary efforts to give Americans every chance to leave the country”. He said diplomats did 55,000 calls and 33,000 emails sent to US citizens in Afghanistan and, in some cases, drove them to Kabul airport.

Mr Biden said on Tuesday that the US government alerted Americans 19 times since March to leave Afghanistan.

The president and his national security team are committed to continuing to work to help get out at-risk Americans and Afghans who seek to leave Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Tuesday that Kabul airport would reopen to air traffic in a few days. But with the airport’s uncertain future, some Afghans are jostling for neighboring borders. Hundreds of people gather every day at Torkham, a major border crossing with Pakistan, hoping the Pakistani authorities will let them through.

The United Nations Refugee Agency recently warned that up to half a million Afghans could flee by the end of the year, and urged countries in the region to keep their borders open for those seeking refuge.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, estimated that around 3.5 million people have been displaced by violence inside Afghanistan – just half a million since May. The majority of them are women and children.

On the Afghan side of the Pakistani border at Torkham, about 140 miles east of Kabul, some families have crowded in recent days with their belongings, determined to flee the Taliban regime. There are also workers from neighboring Afghan provinces who want to cross for a living in a context of scarcity of money and food.

Pakistan has said it will no longer accept Afghan refugees. Border officials would only allow passage to Pakistani citizens and the few Afghans who have visas.

While Afghan refugees living in Pakistan commuted for decades without being asked questions, in recent years Pakistan has made access more difficult and built a border fence. 1,600 miles long.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Moving to government, Taliban to appoint Afghan supreme leader
Moving to government, Taliban to appoint Afghan supreme leader
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