Taliban cabinet: Mullah Hassan to lead govt, Abdul Ghani to be deputy

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Image: Hindustan Times
Image: Hindustan Times

New Delhi : Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund will lead the new Taliban government in Afghanistan and the group co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will be one of the two deputies, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said on Tuesday.

The Taliban spokesperson said that Amir Khan Muttaqi will be Afghanistan's acting foreign minister while Mullah Yaqoob, son of Taliban's founder Mullah Omar, will serve as the acting defence minister. Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network, will serve as acting interior minister in the interim government.

The Taliban announced its government in Afghanistan after weeks of deliberation, revealing an all-male cabinet that also includes a top official who is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)'s most wanted list, with a bounty of up to $10 million on his head. 

Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has been named the interior minister of the new interim government, has reportedly been a senior leader of the Taliban since 2016. The United States terms him as a specially designated global terrorist with close ties to al Qaeda, and with the man now being named to one of the senior most posts in the Afghan state machinery, experts believe that the United States has cause to worry.

According to the FBI page for Haqqani, the man is known by several aliases – including Siraj, Khalifa, Mohammad Siraj, Sarajadin, Cirodjiddin, Seraj, Arkani, and Khalifa Shahib. The 'rewards for justice' programme under the United States department of state is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading directly to the arrest of Sirajuddin Haqqani.

The wanted poster issued by the FBI against Sirajuddin Haqqani is seen this undated handout photo. (FBI)

Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul. The attack, which killed six people including an American citizen, is believed to have been coordinated by Haqqani himself, who has had a history of cross-border attacks against the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. As per the FBI, Haqqani was also allegedly involved in planning the assassination attempt on former Afghan president Hamid Karzai in 2008.

Meanwhile, the United States said late on Tuesday that it is concerned about the affiliations and track records of some of the people named by the Taliban to fill top posts in Afghanistan's new government. 

Women, who the Taliban promised will play a prominent role in the new Afghan society, were conveniently omitted from the new caretaker government; there was no mention of a ministry for women.