The Taliban appeared closer to forming a government nearly a week after their leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Kabul to begin talks with former President Hamid Karzai and other politicians.
“Negotiations are currently underway,” said Ahmadullah Waseq, deputy of the Taliban’s Cultural Affairs Committee, which confirmed Mr Baradar’s arrival in the capital. “Then we will talk to other parties to form an inclusive government acceptable to all Afghans.”
“It is not clear when we will have a new government,” he added, “but we are trying to announce it as soon as possible.”
Mr Baradar began his return to Afghanistan this week from Qatar, where he served as the Taliban’s chief negotiator in negotiations with the former government. Mr. Baradar, lieutenant of the Taliban founder, stands ready to lead any government that is formed.
As the group’s leaders gather in Kabul to discuss the new government, thousands of Afghans continue to populate Kabul’s airport and risk the Taliban, desperate for space on an evacuation flight. The situation there fuels concerns about the group’s ability to lead a war-weary nation besieged by a humanitarian crisis, growing dissension and fear of a return to their harsh and violent rule.
While US forces are accelerating the evacuations, President Biden has made it clear that the mission will not be open-ended, raising the risk that many Afghans will be left to face life under the new regime.
Since the capture of Kabul, the Taliban have tried to rebrand themselves as more moderate ones by promising amnesty through former rivals, encouraging women to join their governments, pledging stability at home and trying to persuade the international community to move forward. look beyond a bloody past defined by violence and repression.
But many in Afghanistan and abroad are deeply skeptical of their purported transformation, remembering the Taliban’s way of governance in the late 1990s, when they imposed a harsh interpretation of Islam that deprived women of basic rights such as education and punishments such as flogging, amputations and mass executions.
As the Taliban prepare the rough outline of their new government, Mr. Baradar, one of the group’s founders, emerges as the leader of what the group calls the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
He has been a powerful lieutenant of the founding Supreme Leader of the Taliban, Mullah Muhammad Omar, for many years and has a large and loyal following among the Taliban. He also recently acted as chief negotiator in high-level peace talks in Qatar, where he chaired the agreement that paved the way for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Understand the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. They used brutal public punishment, including flogging, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more about their origin story and their track record as rulers.
The new government will face enormous challenges, including a lack of legitimacy, as ordinary Afghans, members of the security and intelligence services, foreign governments and the international community may not accept them as the rightful government of the Afghan people.
Basic services such as water, electricity and garbage collection are under threat as many fearful state employees have not shown up for work for fear of retaliation from the Taliban. And a humanitarian crisis is mounting: two-thirds of the country suffers from malnutrition.
The situation will be exacerbated by the lack of funding. Washington has frozen the Afghan government’s reserves in US bank accounts and the International Monetary Fund has denied Afghanistan access to emergency reserves.
In recent days, Taliban leaders, including Amir Khan Muttaqi, a former information minister, have held talks with former opponents, including former US-backed president, Mr Karzai, over the form of a new government.
The involvement of Mr Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a former head of government and well-known to world leaders, could give the new government a layer of credibility. But observers have also watched with terror the rise of other figures such as Khalil Haqqani, 48, the leader of one of the most powerful and violent Taliban factions, who is expected to play a prominent role.