The Taliban’s 33-member caretaker government, which the group announced on Tuesday, is comprised entirely of men and packed with mullahs, hajjis, and sheikhs who adhere to the movement’s narrow, ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam.
In the Taliban’s view, only a such a government can be considered “Islamic” and qualified to rule the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”.
The Taliban have rejected the international community’s call for an inclusive cabinet by offering posts to non-Taliban figures, members of the ousted government and women. Instead, the movement adopted its own version of inclusivity by appointing an Uzbek and two Tajiks while retaining the rest for Pashtuns, who dominate the Taliban and constitute the largest Afghan community. Among them are tribal and provincial loyalists.
The Taliban excluded women from senior posts. Ex-minister of women’s affairs Habiba Sarabi told the BBC: “That’s their mentality. [They say] no to women’s rights and human rights.” Her ministry is not on the list and is not expected to be revived when final appointments are made.
After more than three weeks of bickering between relative moderates and hardliners, the Taliban's commander of the faithful, Hibatullah Akhundzada, secured a compromise. Mullah Hassan Akhund, a religious figure, was named prime minister and political moderates involved in the Doha peace talks, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi (Uzbek), are his deputies. Amir Khan Muttaqi is foreign minister and Mullah Hakim Ishaqzai is justice minister.
Although denied the top job, Baradar is regarded as de facto leader. A former Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, told Bloomberg that Baradar will “be in the crosshairs of Taliban hardliners who do not see any reason to change their movement’s core beliefs to please the unbelievers”.
To offset Baradar, hardliner Sirajuddin Haqqani is interior minister in charge of police and intelligence. He has close ties to Pakistan and al-Qaeda and heads the Haqqani Network, which the US branded a terrorist organisation. Haqqanis also hold the higher education, communications and refugee portfolios.
The son of the late Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Omar, Maulvi Muhammad Yacoub, is defence minister. The Associated Press reported that as military commander of the Taliban’s campaign, he urged fighters not to harm soldiers or officials.
Taliban money manager Mullah Hidayatullah Badri holds the key finance portfolio. Although a UN-designated terrorist, he will conduct talks over freeing up foreign assets and securing aid for Afghanistan’s crisis-ridden economy.
Sheikh Mohammed Khaled is minister for conveying Islam’s message and providing guidance to ensure adherence to Taliban practices and rules.
US commentator Vali Nasr told the BBC that this government will decide the “shape of the new state”, which will be a theocracy, but it is not clear “how severe the theocracy will be” when implementing the Taliban’s religious, political, social, and cultural agenda.