Reports from Afghanistan indicate the announcement of a Taliban government is imminent - and this new government may not include any former leaders. If true, this will be an unfortunate development as far as an forming ‘inclusive’ government is concerned.
Top Taliban political leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is almost certain to be appointed president, while the group’s ‘commander of the faithful’ Haibatullah Akhundzada is likely to be declared the Supreme Leader of Afghanistan.
These developments follow an astonishing past few weeks in Afghanistan, which have seen the total and ignominious collapse of the Afghan army and government in the face of a Taliban blitzkrieg, the complete and chaotic withdrawal of the US forces, and a total Taliban victory.
In recent days, Taliban officials have held a number of discussions with members of the defunct government. This led observers to believe that the talks were about their potential role in the new government. However, it turns out the talks were more aimed at assuring them of their own security in the new political dispensation in the country.
But there is still once province that is holding out. The battle for Panjshir has now begun and the Taliban claim to have already captured a few districts there. Dozens on both sides have been killed. However, with no prospects of foreign military aid, it doesn’t look likely that the Panjshir rebels can hold out for too long.
The other issue for Taliban would be the actual running of the country. The group has not been recognised by the global community, with many countries basing any future recognition on Taliban actions and on whether there will be a full political settlement in the country.
Afghanistan is on the brink of an economic breakdown. The Afghan economy, riddled with boundless corruption under the previous administration, is almost entirely underwritten by international donors. The Taliban will be hoping that some of the aid continues to flow in. But this aid will inevitably be linked to the actions of the group while in government.
The place of women in Afghan society is also likely to be a thorn in the side of the emerging Taliban administration. The group has assured the international community that women will be allowed to have higher education and hold jobs but, increasingly, reports indicate the presence of women in the social sphere is already reducing.
The days and weeks ahead will be crucial for Afghanistan’s future.