Mohammad Hasan Akhund led new Afghan govt dominated by Taliban’s old guard

News Network
September 8, 2021

The Taliban has appointed Mohammad Hasan Akhund, a close aide to the group’s late founder Mullah Omar, as head of Afghanistan’s new caretaker government, weeks after it took control of the country in a rapid offensive.

The list of cabinet members announced by chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday was dominated by members of the group’s old guard, with no women included.

Abdul Ghani Baradar, the head of the Taliban’s political office, will be the deputy leader while Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the founder of the Haqqani Network, has been named as interior minister.

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, has been named as defence minister. Hedayatullah Badri will be the acting minister of finance, while Amir Khan Muttaqi, a Taliban negotiator in Doha, was named foreign minister.

“The Islamic Emirate decided to appoint and announce a caretaker cabinet to carry out the necessary government works,” said Mujahid, who named 33 members of “the new Islamic government” and said the remaining posts will be announced after careful deliberation.

Speaking at a news conference in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Mujahid stressed the cabinet was an “acting” government and that the group will “try to take people from other parts of the country”. 

Akhund, the acting prime minister, is on a United Nations sanctions list.

Hailing from Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, Akhund was previously the foreign minister and then deputy prime minister during the group’s last stint in power from 1996 to 2001.

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News Network
September 7,2021

Guwahati, Sept 7: All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) president Badruddin Ajmal on Monday said the Congress might have snapped ties with the party but he has no grudge against it as the decision will benefit both the parties during by-elections to be held in seats lying vacant due to resignation of MLAs.

GuwahatiThe AIUDF chief said his party will contest one or two seats in the by-polls, the dates of which are yet to be announced.

"Whatever decision the big brother (Congress) takes, we agree to it. We have accepted that the alliance is not there anymore but they could have at least discussed the matter with us once before announcing their decision," Ajmal said.

At a meeting of its core committee on August 30, the state Congress decided to break alliance with the AIUDF saying "continuous and mysterious praise of the BJP and the chief minister by AIUDF leadership and senior members have affected the public perception of the Congress party".

The AIUDF was part of the Congress-led Grand Alliance that fought the BJP-headed in NDA in the assembly election held earlier this year in Assam.

To a question, Ajmal said the party did not feel betrayed by the decision of the Congress.

"Why should we feel betrayed? We had a political arrangement and then they decided to break the ties. Let them be happy and we are also happy," the MP from Dhubri said.

Of the six vacant assembly constituencies where by-elections will be held, the AIUDF will contest in only one or two, he said without naming the seats.

"The break-up of the alliance will benefit both the AIUDF and the Congress," he said without elaborating.

Ajmal, however, criticised Raijor Dal president and independent MLA Akhil Gogoi, claiming that he is "frustrated and seeking cheap publicity".

"Akhil is meeting Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to be part of an all-India alliance. His party has only one MLA and he wants to be a national leader. This is indeed a joke," the MP said.

The 10-party Grand Alliance was formed ahead of this year''s assembly elections in the state. Besides the Congress, AIUDF and Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF), it comprised the Jimochayan (Deori) People''s Party (JDPP), Adivasi National Party (ANP), CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML), Anchalik Gana Morcha, and the RJD. The alliance had won 50 seats in the assembly polls with Congress securing 29, AIUDF 16, BPF four and the CPI(M) one.

On August 30, the Congress also decided to snap ties with the BPF.

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News Network
September 12,2021

Kabul, Sept 12: The higher education minister in the new Taliban government says women will study in universities, including at post-graduate levels, but that classrooms will be gender-segregated and that Islamic dress is compulsory.

The minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, laid out the new policies at a news conference Sunday, several days after Afghanistan's new rulers formed a Taliban government.

Haqqani said female university students would be required to wear a hijab but did not elaborate on whether this only meant a compulsory headscarf or also mandatory face coverings. 

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News Network
September 15,2021

New Delhi, Sept 15: After its recent withdrawal from the Afghanistan, the United States has hinted that it has been in talks with the government of India for using airfields in India as “staging areas” for carrying out aerial surveillance and launching attacks on terrorists in Pak-Afghan region.

President Joe Biden’s administration is “deeply engaged” with New Delhi, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said, testifying before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives – the lower house of the American Congress.

He was responding to Republican Party’s Representative Mark E Green, who asked if the Biden Administration had reached out to New Delhi for using “over-the-horizon” capabilities from “staging areas” in north-west India for neutralising potential threats to the United States in and around Afghanistan, in view of the collusion between the Taliban and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan.

 “We are deeply engaged with India across the board,” Blinken replied to Green.

He, however, did not share the details of the discussion between the two governments on the US launching drones from India for keeping watch on terrorist infrastructures in Afghanistan.

“With regard to any specifics about over-the-horizon capabilities and the plans we put in place or continue to put in place, I would rather take that up in a different setting,” Blinken replied to Green.

The Taliban of late returned to power in Afghanistan through a swift military campaign across the country taking advantage of the withdrawal of the US troops.

Biden and other senior officials of his administration in Washington DC repeatedly stated over the past few weeks that the US had sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to neutralise the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda – the objectives, which had been achieved over the past two decades.

Though terrorism continued to remain a threat and spread around the world, the US no longer required to deploy a large number of soldiers overseas to combat the menace as it had now developed the “over-the-horizon” capabilities of carrying out aerial surveillance and launch drones to eliminate such threats, they argued, justifying the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

But what may limit the US' capabilities of launching drone attacks on the terrorists and terror infrastructures in the region is the fact that some of the airbases it had earlier used for the purpose are no longer available to it after its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The nearest airbases the US can use are in Qatar, Kuwait and other countries in the Gulf and far away from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region where the targets may be located – a fact Green pointed out while asking Blinken about the Biden Administration’s discussion with New Delhi.

New Delhi did not officially make any comment on Green’s query or the reply given by Blinken.

The Commander of the US Special Operations Command, General Richard D Clarke, had visited New Delhi in July and held a meeting with the Indian Army chief Gen M M Naravane.

Admiral John C Aquilino, Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, also visited New Delhi and held a meeting with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, just about 10 days after the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan.

India is a “major defence partner” of the US and the two nations had inked a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016, creating a framework to support each other's aircraft, ships and personnel with logistics, fuel and spares.

They also signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) in 2018 and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) in 2020 to enable the exchange of geospatial information between the two countries. 

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