Taliban name hardline interim government

The new Afghan government includes five Taliban members who were captured by US forces, but later released in a prisoner swap in 2014.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addresses a press conference in Kabul announces new, interim government on September 7, 2021. (Photo: Aamir Qureshi / AFP)
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid addresses a press conference in Kabul announces new, interim government on September 7, 2021. (Photo: Aamir Qureshi / AFP)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The Taliban announced on Tuesday the appointment of individuals to a new, interim government.

The new Afghan government appears to consist of long-time Taliban members. They are generally hard-liners, and they include two members of a US-designated terrorist group: the Haqqani Network, underscoring the permeability of these groups.

They also include five Taliban members who were captured by US forces, but later released in a prisoner swap in 2014.

The Haqqani Network

Sirajuddin Haqqani was appointed to the new Taliban government. He is the son of the leader of the Haqqani Network, Jalaluddin Haqqani, when it was established by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union.

The ISI has continued to support the Haqqani Network in the decades since, as it also supports the Taliban, which it helped establish in 1994, as Afghanistan fell into civil war following the Soviet defeat there.

The Haqqani Network “was the most dogged opponent of the US presence in Afghanistan,” The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The State Department’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program earlier explained that Sirajuddin “leads the day-to-day activities of the Haqqani network.”

“During an interview with an American news organization,” RFJ said, he “admitted planning the January 14, 2008 attack against the Serena Hotel in Kabul,” killing six people, including a US citizen.

The Haqqani Network has also conducted “a number of significant kidnappings and attacks against US and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan government and civilian attacks,” RFJ continued.

They include a June 2011 attack on Kabul’s Intercontinental Hoel, killing 13 people; a September 2001 truck bombing that wounded 77 US troops; another attack that month on the US embassy and Coalition headquarters in Kabul that lasted 19 hours and killed 16 Afghans, and the list goes on.

Sirajuddin will be Afghanistan’s new Interior Minister.

Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani will be Minister for Refugees. The State Department’s RFJ program is offering $5 million for information leading to his arrest. The RFJ program describes him as an important fundraiser, with close ties to al Qaida.

Despite promises of an inclusive government, the new regime is dominated by one ethnic group: Pashtun.

Afghanistan’s Ethnic, Religious Groups

Yet Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic, bi-sectarian country. The CIA says that a reliable breakdown of the Afghan population does not exist. So with that caution in mind, the Pashtun are considered the largest group—although they constitute somewhat less than half the population.

The Pashtun are followed by Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras. There are also several smaller ethnic groups, including Baluch, who dominate in the southwestern province of Nimruz, which borders Baluch-inhabited areas of Iran and Pakistan.

While most of Afghanistan is Sunni, the Hazara are Shi’ites, and they are particular targets of Sunni extremist groups, including the Taliban.

This, Afghanistan suffers from some of the same problems as Iraq and Syria: the country’s borders do not match its ethnic composition. The Tajik, who are leading the resistance to the new Taliban government, have suggested that Iraq could serve as a guide for the future of Afghanistan.

Above all, they seek a decentralization of power and authority. They see federalism as the optimal form of government for Afghanistan and have hailed the Kurdistan Region as a model.

Read More: 'Our best model is Iraqi Kurdistan,' says group resisting Taliban rule in Afghanistan

Notably, a huge cultural gap exists between some urban areas of Afghanistan, including Kabul, and the cities in the north versus the rural, tribal Pashtun.

The Taliban—whose rank and file are rural, tribal Pashtun—claim to be ruling by a strict interpretation of Islamic law. In reality, however, they are following the Pashtunwali: the traditional, pre-Islamic code of the Pashtun.

The Pashtunwali places great importance—even primacy—on male honor, and along with it, the control and dominance of women.

Not only are the Taliban’s rank-and-file moved by old, very traditional codes of behavior, they are tremendously ill-informed about the world beyond and even within Afghanistan.

The adult literacy rate for all of Afghanistan is approximately 43%, according to the World Bank. By comparison, the adult literacy in Iraq is twice that: 86%.

Since Afghan literacy is higher in the cities than in rural areas, the literacy rate of the political and military base of the Taliban must be significantly below 43%.

A broad expert consensus has quickly emerged, based on the Taliban’s choice of officials, that they maintain a more general disdain for international opinion, even as they will be dependent, once they formally start work, on international support to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Afghan population.