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Taliban appoint veterans to key ministerial posts

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Afghan people walk inside a fenced corridor as they enter Pakistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 25, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The Taliban have appointed senior veterans to the positions of Afghanistan’s finance minister, interior minister, and defense minister, but the appointments have not been formally announced.

The country’s Pajhwok news agency reported on Wednesday that Gul Agha had been named the finance minister and Sadr Ibrahim the acting interior minister.

Gul Agha would appear to be Gul Agha Ishakzai, the head of the Taliban's financial commission, while Sadr is believed to be a powerful and trusted figure within the Taliban.

Former Guantanamo detainee and a veteran Taliban battlefield commander Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir was named the acting defense minister.

A Taliban official in Kabul had confirmed the key ministerial appointments made this week. The official said provincial governors would be selected from among some of the most experienced commanders.

A Taliban commander also confirmed the key ministerial choices, but said they had not yet been made official.

Other figures named to government positions appeared to be mostly military Taliban leaders from the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Last week, the Taliban appointed Haji Mohammad Idris, from the northern province of Jawzjan, as the acting head of the central bank.

The Taliban have also ordered mid-level officials at the finance ministry and the central bank to return to work.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, told reporters in Kabul on Tuesday that it “was time for people to work for their country.”

The Taliban have included Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai and former peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah in a 12-member council which will govern Afghanistan during the transition period, according to a source. Out of the 12 members, seven candidates have been already agreed upon.

Separately, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that the Taliban's desire for international recognition is the Security Council's only leverage to press for inclusive government and respect for rights in Afghanistan.

“It's very important for the international community to be united, for all members of the Security Council to be united, to use the only leverage that exists, which is the interests of the Taliban for legitimacy for recognition.”

Guterres said he was ready to speak with the Taliban himself “when it is clear with whom should I speak, for what purpose.”

For now, UN officials in Kabul have been in close contact with the Taliban, he added.

The UN chief said a common front in dealing with the Taliban could push them to form an inclusive government, respect human rights, continue to allow evacuations from Kabul and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorism.

The government of Afghanistan rapidly collapsed on August 15 and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country in the face of the lightning advances of the Taliban, following what has been criticized as a hasty withdrawal of American forces from the country, 20 years after they invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban.

The Taliban have rejected the potential extension of a looming deadline for US and other foreign troops to completely withdraw from Afghanistan, and called on Washington to stop evacuating skilled Afghans after the group’s takeover of the country.

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