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Some Members Of The Taliban's New Government Are Well-Known To U.S. Officials


We're going to spend the next few minutes trying to understand the consequences of the Taliban's new government. The group has declared Afghanistan an Islamic emirate, and they announced an interim Cabinet. Despite promises to make it inclusive, it appears anything but. It includes some notorious Taliban leaders and their allies, many of whom are under U.S. or U.N. sanctions. This comes as Taliban leaders urge foreign diplomats, embassies and humanitarian groups to return to the country to keep the economy going.

Meanwhile, people in Kabul have been protesting Taliban rule, and many Afghans are still desperately trying to get out of the country. We'll hear those voices in a moment. But first, Ali Mustafa - I talked to him earlier this morning. He's a reporter with TRT World in Kabul. Just a note - TRT is funded by the Turkish government.

Can you just start off by telling us more about the people the Taliban have selected to run the country right now?

ALI MUSTAFA: Well, the Taliban have certainly played it safe when it comes to announcing a cabinet and the government. These are mostly individuals that were loyal to the Taliban founder Mullah Omar, including the man named as the head of the cabinet, Mullah Hasan Akhund. He is from Kandahar. So is his deputy, Mullah Baradar, who was essentially the sweetheart of the West, trying to finalize that Doha agreement, which he signed with Mike Pompeo. But the decisions and the names reveal that the Taliban had a face for the West with Mullah Baradar, Abbas Stanikzai and the people that were actually running the show who have now come forward.

MARTIN: I mean, we also just should note - Sirajuddin Haqqani is going to be the interior minister. He's on the FBI's most wanted list, right?

MUSTAFA: Absolutely. I have been meeting his brother - younger brother - Anas Haqqani. Keep in mind, Sirajuddin Haqqani lost four brothers - three in U.S. drone strikes, one in an American attack. He's the son of the Taliban co-founder Jalaluddin Haqqani. The FBI - he's also on the FBI's most-wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head. So among the ranks, he's known as khalifa, meaning leader. And he's quite a significant character with a strong following, especially when it comes to the Paktia orbit of things, not Kandahar.

MARTIN: Do the Taliban even acknowledged that they made these promises to form a more inclusive government? Because this doesn't feel like that.

MUSTAFA: They have been very, very careful to highlight that this is an interim setup, that this is a work in progress. And it alludes to the pressure that they had, both internally within their ranks to stay true to their ideology, and externally to be more inclusive of characters like Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah and so on, so forth, even give women possibility of a chance of a seat. But if they did that, they would alienate their ranks within. So they've played it safe. They've announced an interim setup and stacked it with loyalists.

MARTIN: So as we've been reporting, Afghanistan is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. They need international aid. The Taliban is going to need legitimacy and cooperation from the international community to keep getting that aid. Is this new government, though, filled with Taliban loyalists, going to make that more difficult?

MUSTAFA: It might make it difficult. But surprisingly, the value of the Afghani currency is recovering today, when a couple of weeks ago - about three weeks ago - it reached 91 Afghanis to a dollar. Today, it's at 81 to the dollar, and that's perplexing people - maybe some stability, maybe some other sources of income that aren't on the books.

But the Taliban leadership has been meeting with officials from the United Nations. They had a meeting with the ICRC - the Red Cross. They are open to humanitarian aid. They want their funds unfrozen. But I think with the announcement of this government, they're not too hopeful that they will be unfrozen - the $10 billion, foreign exchange reserves outside the country.

So there are a lot of these questions. They'll be eyeing China and Qatar to bail them out, lump sum, if that money isn't released. And they'll be hoping that China can provide that relief.

MARTIN: Ali Mustafa with TRT World in Kabul. Thank you.

MUSTAFA: Peace. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.