Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid AFghan kabul
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid at a press conference in Kabul Image Credit: AFP

As international aid agencies warn of impeding humanitarian crisis, the Taliban on Tuesday announced a hardliner government that is unlikely to entice foreign donors to extend the urgent aid needed by Afghanistan to avert an economic collapse.

Amid the continuing onslaught of COVID-19 and the repercussions of years long fighting that led last month to the collapse of the internationally recognised government of former president Ashraf Ghani and a swift takeover by Taliban, the United Nations sent an appeal for some $200 million in urgent aid to prevent the collapse of Afghanistan’s health system.

Most of the aid agencies that worked in the country fled following the Taliban takeover and international funding was cut, according to UN officials.

It is doubtful however that international donors would be rushing for assistance while there is little clarity about the mechanism by which the money would be spent by the country’s new rulers. And Tuesday’s interim government announcement added to the doubts whether Taliban, which had ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, has changed its extremist ideology as its officials claimed recently.

Shortly after capturing Kabul, the group promised “an inclusive government” that would be made up of all the country’s ethnic groups, including officials from the ousted Ghani government.

But the cabinet announced by the militia on Wednesday was almost entirely from hardcore Taliban cadres who had held senior positions in the group’s earlier rule.

A new dispensation

The new caretaker Prime Minster, Mohammad Hasan Akhund, will head the new Taliban government. His deputy is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the chief of Taliban’s political council.

Beside the fact that nearly all portfolios went to the majority ethnic Pushtun, the key security post, the ministry of interior, has been given to Sirajuddin Haqqani, head of the Haqqani network. A report by the UN, released in June said the Haqqani Network continues to maintain strong ties with various extremist groups.

It is of course early to judge the new Taliban government as it remains to be seen how they manage of the country’s affairs although early signs don’t bode well. They could however surprise a sceptical world by initiating a balanced approach both domestically and regionally.

Taliban will surely ask for more time to prove the doubters wrong. There is a slim chance that could happen, but let us not forget that they also stunned the world by their swift takeover of the entire country.

Meanwhile, it is important that major donors find a way to prevent a potential humanitarian and health disaster. An international monitoring group can be assigned to supervise the dispensing of the aid money is one way to avoid misuse of the aid.

The new Taliban government needs to commit to that and ensure the safety and freedom of movement of the aid groups for the sake of their people.