The Taliban appeared to be closer to forming a government almost a week after capturing the capital when one of their leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, arrived in Kabul to open talks with former President Hamid Karzai and other politicians.
“Negotiations are under way right now,” said Ahmadullah Waseq, deputy to the Taliban’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, who confirmed Mr Baradar’s arrival in the capital.
For now, he said, Taliban officials are largely speaking to each other in preparation for the negotiations.
“Then we will talk to other parties to form an inclusive government that is acceptable to all Afghans,” he added. Waseq. “It is not clear when we will get a new government, but we will try to announce it as soon as we can.”
Other Taliban leaders met on Saturday with Mr. Karzai and another prominent former Afghan official, Abdullah Abdullah, a former head of government, to discuss life under the Taliban.
As the negotiations began in peaceful, formal surroundings, scenes of destruction unfolded near Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans have crowded, desperate to find space on an evacuation plane.
The situation there raised concerns about the Taliban’s ability to rule a war – weary nation besieged by a humanitarian crisis, growing disagreement and fears of a return to the group’s harsh and violent rule.
Although U.S. troops are speeding up the evacuations, President Biden has made it clear that the mission will not be open, increasing the risk that many Afghans will be left to face life under the new regime.
Since the conquest of Kabul, the Taliban has sought to rename itself as a more moderate, promising former rival amnesty, urged women to join their government, promised stability in the home and sought to persuade the international community to look beyond a bloody past defined by violence and oppression.
Afghanistan under Taliban rule
With the departure of the U.S. military on August 30, Afghanistan quickly fell back under Taliban control. There is widespread fear of the future across the country.
But many in Afghanistan and abroad are deeply skeptical of their alleged transformation, recalling the Taliban’s regime in the late 1990s, when they imposed a harsh interpretation of Islam that deprived women of fundamental rights as education and encouraged punishments such as whipping, amputations and lots. executions.
While the Taliban are preparing the rough outlines of their new government, Mr Baradar, one of the group’s founders, is emerging as the leader of what the group refers to as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
A longtime lieutenant of the Taliban’s founding supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, Mr. Baradar has a large and loyal following among the Taliban. He recently served as chief negotiator in high-level peace talks in Qatar, where he oversaw the deal that paved the way for the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Understand the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan
Who is the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest that followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including whipping, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more about their origins and their record as rulers.
Mr. Baradar began returning to Afghanistan this week from Qatar.
The new government will face enormous challenges, including a lack of legitimacy, as ordinary Afghans, members of the security and intelligence services, foreign governments and the international community may not accept it as the rightful government of the Afghan people.
Basic services like electricity are threatened as many frightened government employees have not turned up for work for fear of Taliban retaliation. And a humanitarian crisis is intensifying, with two-thirds of the country suffering from malnutrition.
The situation will be exacerbated by the lack of funding. Washington has frozen Afghan state reserves in US bank accounts, and the International Monetary Fund has blocked Afghanistan’s access to emergency reserves.
In recent days, Taliban leaders, including Amir Khan Muttaqi, a former information minister, have started talks with former opponents, including the former US-backed president, Mr. Karzai, on the form of a new government.
The involvement of Mr. Karzai and Mr. Abdullah, both well known by world leaders, in any negotiation could help provide a veneer of credibility to the new government. But observers have also seen with alarm the rise of other figures such as Khalil Haqqani, 48, a leader of one of the most powerful and violent Taliban factions, which is expected to play a prominent role.
Saturday’s initial talks came, according to former Afghan officials, a day after the Taliban met armed resistance to their rule in the mountains north of Kabul. They were driven out of three rural areas.