NEWS
08/09/2021 17:00 BST

Afghanistan: Will Anyone Work With The Taliban's New Cabinet?

The militants want to be formally recognised as Afghanistan's leaders but have upset the West in the process.

Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images
The Taliban's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announcing the new interim government on Tuesday

The Taliban have unveiled their new caretaker government which will be led by many of the group’s old guard – and includes no women.

The militants promised they were now a more moderate and inclusive group following their lightning takeover of Afghanistan in August, in a bid to appease the US and its allies.

As Afghanistan is on the cusp of a humanitarian and economic crisis the Taliban is still dependent on contributions from the West to keep the country afloat.

So, did they please anyone with their new government appointments?

The US and the UK are not happy

Afghanistan was run by former president Ashraf Ghani, who was backed by the West, up until he fled on August 15 and handed the reins of power over to the militants. After that, the States announced that it no longer recognised him as the leader of Afghanistan.

But, the US has also warned that it will not be recognising the Taliban any time soon, while prime minister Boris Johnson promised the militants would be judged by “their actions” rather than their words.

Although the US obeyed the Taliban’s demands and withdrew all of its troops by August 31, the militants do not seem to have made any consequential concessions in their cabinet – many of the country’s newly-appointed figures are already on the West’s watchlist.

The Washington Post via Getty Images
Biden went along with the Taliban's demand to remove all US troops by August 31

The group has stressed it is just a temporary cabinet, but it will be led by Mohammad Hasan Akhund, a close aide to the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Omar – who is actually on the United Nations sanctions list.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the new interior minister, is the son of the founder of Haqqani Network, which is believed to be a “terrorist” organisation in the US, and one of the FBI’s most wanted men.

A US State Department spokesperson said it was concerned about the “affiliations and track records” of these new government figures.

They continued: “We also reiterate our clear expectation that the Taliban ensure that Afghan soil is not used to threaten any other countries and allow humanitarian access in support of the Afghan people.”

Johnson’s spokesperson said: “We will continue to judge the Taliban on their actions ... We would want to see, in any situation, a diverse group in leadership which seeks to address the pledges that the Taliban themselves have set out and that’s not what we have seen.”

The EU claims the Taliban has already broken its promises

Many of the new appointments are Pashtun, meaning the cabinet does not take into account the ethnic diversity of Afghanistan, despite starting power-sharing discussions with other groups the day after they declared victory.

A EU spokesperson said: “Upon initial analysis of the names announced, it does not look like the inclusive and representative formation in terms of the rich ethnic and religious diversity of Afghanistan we hoped to see and that the Taliban were promising over the past weeks.”

AHMAD RIDWAN NASUTION via Getty Images
Protesters outside the UN's refugee branch criticising the Taliban's treatment of women 

The UN is angry about the lack of inclusion 

United Nations spokesperson Farhan Haw said only a “negotiated and inclusive settlement will bring sustainable peace to Afghanistan”.

The UN added that it was committed to a “peaceful solution” and wanted to prioritise the human rights of all Afghans, including women and girls, while providing humanitarian aid.

China has been supportive of the Taliban so far

Beijing has been forthcoming in its praise for the Taliban, claiming that their new interim government has ended the “three weeks of anarchy” triggered by the drawn-out evacuation of Western troops.

China also offered to help bring stability, adding the new government is a “necessary step to restore order and rebuild the country”, extending friendly relations again.

A foreign ministry spokesman said: “China attaches great importance to the announcement by the Taliban of the establishment of an interim government and some important personnel arrangements.

“This has ended more than three weeks of anarchy in Afghanistan and is a necessary step to restore order and rebuild the country.”

Turkey is biding its time

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was carefully watching events unfold in Afghanistan.

He said: “We don’t know how long this interim cabinet will last. All we have to do is to follow this process carefully.”

Turkey positioned itself as opponents to the Taliban in July, claiming it wanted to take control of Kabul airport once the US troops left.

The Taliban did ask Turkey for technical support during the mass evacuations of the country over the last month, but Turkish forces were still expected to flee Afghanistan.

KARIM JAAFAR via Getty Images
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab in Qatar to discuss the Afghanistan crisis and how to deal with the Taliban

Qatar believes Taliban have shown ‘pragmatism’

Assistant foreign minister Lolwah al-Khater said: “They have shown a great deal of pragmatism. Let’s seize the opportunities there...and look at their public actions.”

Although the country has not formally recognised the terror group as Afghanistan’s leaders, it added there was “no question” they were in charge now.

Qatar’s spokesperson said: “They are the de facto rulers, no question about that.”

Does the new government even matter?

Obaidullah Baheer of the American University of Afghanistan said the new cabinet does not do “their cause for international recognition any favours”.

Baheer also told Al Jazeera: “The amount of time spent wasn’t on discussing or negotiating inclusivity or potential power sharing with other political parties.

“That time was spent on knowing how to split that pie amongst their own ranks.”

However, as foreign secretary Dominic Raab explained, the West still have to negotiate with the Taliban in the coming weeks to evacuate Afghans with the right to settle in the UK out of the country.

When visiting Qatar last week, he said the UK is trying to build a regional coalition with Afghanistan’s neighbour countries to “exert the maximum moderating influence”.

He added: “We will not be recognising the Taliban. But we do see the need to be able to have direct engagement, otherwise we can’t provide messages, we can’t listen to the response.”

He said, “we need to adjust to the new reality”, and explained that the UK will continue trying to prevent Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for terrorism.

He concluded: “We also all want to avoid a humanitarian disaster and that requires a permissive environment.”