Hardliners get key roles in new Taliban government

There are also no women, despite previous promises to form an inclusive administration

KABUL A new Taliban interim government drawn exclusively from loyalist ranks formally began work yesterday with established hardliners in all key posts and no women - despite previous promises to form an inclusive administration for all Afghans.

The announcement of a government on Tuesday night was a key step in the Taliban's consolidation of power over Afghanistan, following a stunning military victory that saw it oust the US-backed administration on Aug 15.

Notorious for its brutal rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban had promised a more inclusive government this time.

However, all the top positions were handed to key leaders from the movement and the Haqqani network - the most violent faction of the Taliban known for devastating attacks.

Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund - a senior minister during the Taliban's reign in the 1990s - was appointed interim prime minister, the group's chief spokesman said at a press conference in Kabul.

The position of interior minister was given to Mr Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the feared Haqqani network.

None of the government appointees were women.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that it was an interim government.

The United States said it was concerned about members of a Taliban government named on Tuesday but added that it would judge it by its actions, including letting Afghans leave freely.

"We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women. We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals," a State Department spokesman said.

"We understand that the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker Cabinet. However, we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words."

Mr Hibatullah Akhundzada, the secretive supreme leader of the Taliban, released a statement saying that the new government would "work hard towards upholding Islamic rules and syariah law".

As Afghans anxiously wait to see what kind of Taliban rule awaits the country, Mr Zabihullah also announced the reinstatement of the feared Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The ministry had, under the Taliban's former rule, been responsible for arresting and punishing people for failing to implement the movement's restrictive interpretation of syariah law. - AFP