Taliban Add Minorities, Technocrats to Afghan Government, but No Women

Taliban Add Minorities, Technocrats to Afghan Government, but No Women

12:11 - Group’s all-male administration still falls short of international demands for inclusive governance

The Taliban brought some outsiders into their new Afghan government, giving positions to technocrats, businessmen and members of ethnic minorities following widespread criticism that the cabinet was composed entirely of the Islamist movement’s clerics.

None of Tuesday’s appointments were in key positions, however, and the government excluded women and politicians who were active in the Afghan republic that was deposed on Aug. 15. A lone representative of the Shiite Hazara minority, which was persecuted when the Taliban were in power before the 2001 U.S. invasion, was made a deputy health minister.

Secondary schools for girls also remained shut, another key concern for the international community. Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman who announced the new lineup at a Kabul press conference, said girls schools would reopen soon, without giving a time frame. Elementary schools for boys and girls have been open for weeks, while middle and high schools for boys reopened on Saturday.

The United Nations, the U.S. and other Western countries have all called on the Taliban to form an inclusive government. So have regional countries, such as Pakistan, China and Russia, which—unlike the U.S.—have retained embassies in Kabul. While the U.N. and many nations, including the U.S., have engaged in dialogue with Afghanistan’s new rulers, no country has formally recognized the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the legitimate government.

Mr. Mujahid criticized this delay. “All the requirements necessary for international recognition are met,” he said Tuesday. “Now it is the job of the international community to cooperate with Afghans and recognize us through diplomatic channels.”

Western diplomats said that the new appointments didn’t go far enough to address their concerns about inclusiveness. The Taliban administration faces an immediate economic and humanitarian crisis and has asked for international aid. The U.N., which raised $1 billion for Afghan relief this month, and humanitarian organizations plan to disperse this aid directly rather than through the Taliban authorities.

The Taliban appointed an ethnic Tajik businessman from Panjshir province, the only part of Afghanistan that resisted the Taliban takeover after the fall of Kabul, as trade minister. Two other businessmen were made deputy trade ministers. None of them are prominent in the business community, said businessmen, and information on their backgrounds wasn’t provided. The original Taliban government, announced on Sept. 7, was made up almost entirely of ethnic Pashtuns, with two Tajiks and one Uzbek.

“Though the idea of political inclusion still eludes the Taliban, the appointment of a Hazara and another Tajik is a welcome development,” said Obaidullah Baheer, a lecturer at the now-closed American University of Afghanistan. “There is still an absence of governance skills and relevant experience in the cabinet.”

All government positions announced so far are acting rather than permanent appointments.

A doctor, described by the Taliban as a urologist, was appointed the acting health minister. The group had continued with the previous government’s health minister until now. The future of the country’s hospitals remains unclear, as most were funded through foreign aid.

Two leading hard-line Taliban military commanders, considered close to Iran, were also brought into the government, after having been left out when the administration was first formed. Abdul Qayyum Zakir will be deputy defense minister and Sadar Ibrahim will be deputy interior minister.

While Pakistan has long been considered by Washington the main supporter of the Taliban, Iran is also an important benefactor of some factions. Both countries deny backing the group.

Raising revenue through trade and customs duties is the new government’s key priority. More than 70% of the previous U.S.-backed government’s nonmilitary budget came from international aid, which has been cut off. Mr. Mujahid acknowledged economic challenges but said that corruption meant that the previous government’s money was siphoned off.

“Afghanistan is not that poor that it has nothing,” said Mr. Mujahid. “We have revenue. We have customs, and we can have money within our budget through our customs, to meet the expenses.”

More than $9 billion of assets held by Afghanistan’s central bank are frozen abroad. Commerce and the banking system have been largely paralyzed since the Taliban takeover.

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