Pakistan backing Taliban takeover in Afghanistan?
The Taliban on Sept. 6 announced that they have taken the Panjshir Valley from the incipient National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA). In an audio statement from an undisclosed location, NRFA leader Ahamd Masoud pledged to carry on the fight, and called upon Afghans to launch a national uprising against the Taliban. Another NRFA leader, Fahmi Dashti, was reported killed in the battle for the Valley. News sources in India claimed he met his death in a targeted drone strike launched by Pakistan. (Khaama, NDTV, WION, WaPo)
The Taliban also announced that day the formation of an interim government. The country's "supreme leader" is to be Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada. During the Taliban's last period in power, Akhundzada headed the feared Department for Promoting Virtue & Preventing Vice, and this agency has now been revived. Sarajudin Haqqani, US designated terrorist, has been named as acting minister of interior affairs. Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a close aide of the Taliban's late founder Mullah Omar, is named as acting prime minister, and Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the group's co-founders, is named as his deputy.
Four men receiving senior positions had previously been detained by the US at Guantánamo Bay, and were released as part of a prisoner swap in 2014: Noorullah Noori is acting minister for borders and tribal affairs, Abdul Haq Wasiq is acting intelligence director, Khairullah Khair is acting minister of information and culture, and Mohammad Fazil Mazloom is deputy minister of defense. A fifth detainee released in the 2014 trade, Mohammed Nabi Omari, has been appointed as the new governor of Khost province.
Despite pledges of an "inclusive" government, all the seats were filled with veteran Taliban leaders. The seats are also dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, with only two exceptions. Abdul Salam Hanafi, second deputy prime minister, is an ethnic Uzbek. A member of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, he was deputy minister of education when the Taliban was last in power. Din Mohammad, acting economy minister, an ethnic Tajik, was also a member of Taliban's negotiation team in Qatar. He was minister for planning and education during the Taliban’s previous rule.
The Pakistani branch of the Taliban has meanwhile re-emerged to carry out a suicide attack in that country. At least four people were killed and some 20 injured in the Sept. 5 attack targeting a convoy of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in southwestern Baluchistan province. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the blast. (NBC)