Taliban Announces Gov't Including U.S.-Designated Terrorists, 4 of ‘Taliban 5’ Released From Guantanamo Bay
How do you feel about the Taliban’s new government for Afghanistan?
What’s the story?
- The Taliban announced on Tuesday the names of individuals who will serve in leadership positions within the Taliban’s government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which will follow the edicts of sharia law.
- A formal ceremony is likely to occur in the coming days, potentially on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks ― which were planned by al Qaeda in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s safe harbor. The Taliban has invited Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Turkey to attend the inauguration of its new government.
- The Taliban’s leadership list includes multiple U.S.-designated terrorists, four of the “Taliban Five” who were released in 2014 from Guantanamo Bay by the Obama administration in a prisoner swap for Bowe Bergdahl (who later pleaded guilty to deserting his Army unit in Afghanistan), and several of the Taliban’s lead negotiators in peace talks prior to their defeat of the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
- Following the announcement, the BBC asked the Taliban why no women were given leadership posts in the new government and were told the cabinet wasn’t finalized. The announcement comes as the Taliban has beaten female protesters calling for an inclusive society, and fired warning shots to disperse protests in Kabul and elsewhere.
Who is in the Taliban’s government?
- Emir: Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada, who was an early member of the Taliban and was a close advisor to the late supreme leader Mullah Omar, who rejected requests to turn over Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One of his sons, with Akhundzada's approval, conducted a suicide attack on an Afghan military base in 2017. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al Qaeda, has sworn allegiance to past Taliban leaders and most recently renewed that pledge when Akhundzada assumed leadership of the Taliban.
- Head of State: Mullah Hassan Akhund, who was also an early member of the Taliban and close advisor to Mullah Omar. During the Taliban’s previous reign over Afghanistan, Akhund allegedly supervised the March 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, a pair of Buddha statues made in central Afghanistan in the 6th century that were a UNESCO World Heritage Site prior to their destruction. Akhund has been on the United Nations sanctions list since 2001.
- First Deputy: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban with Mullah Omar who was imprisoned from 2010 to 2018 in Pakistan, where he was released at the urging of the Trump administration amid its peace talks with the Taliban.
- Minister of Interior: Sirajuddin Haqqani, a specially designated global terrorist and one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists with a $10 million reward for information directly leading to his arrest. He is reportedly a senior leader of the Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terror group, and has close ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda. He is wanted for a 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul that killed six people, and also reportedly participated in attacks against U.S. and coalition forces.
- Minister of Defense: Mullah Yaqoub, the son of Taliban founder and late supreme leader Mullah Omar. Yaqoub recently honored Taliban suicide bombers in a video that blamed the U.S. for the 9/11 terror attacks.
- Minister for Information and Culture: Mullah Khairullah Khairkhah, who was arrested in 2002 during the U.S. response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and held at Guantanamo Bay as an alleged close associate of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden until his 2014 release as one of the “Taliban Five.” He has been a lead negotiator for the Taliban and has reportedly played a leading role in the group’s strategy to regain control of Afghanistan.
- Chief of Army Staff: Mohammad Fazl, who was one of the “Taliban Five” and a frontline commander for the Taliban, serving as the group’s deputy defense minister. He is accused of playing a key role in several massacres and summary executions of Afghan civilians in the 1999 to 2001 period.
- Director of Intelligence: Abdul Haq Wasiq, one of the “Taliban Five” who had facilitated the Taliban’s alliances with fundamentalist groups along with intelligence training and other support between al Qaeda and the Taliban.
- Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs: Mullah Noorullah Noori, one of the “Taliban Five” who had fought with al Qaeda and the Taliban against the U.S.-led coalition. He was also wanted by the United Nations for possible war crimes, including the murder of thousands of Shiite Muslims.
- Minister of Refugees: Khalil Haqqani, the uncle of Sirajuddin and the brother of the late Jalaluddin Haqqani ― who was a close friend of Osama bin Laden and an early leader in the Taliban. Khalil is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist for his fundraising and other activities on behalf of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
- National Security Officials Warn of Renewed Terrorism Threat From Afghanistan Following Taliban Takeover (8/18/21)
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha / Public Domain)
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