Top Taliban leader flies into Kabul for talks on setting up new Afghan regime


Show caption Abdul Ghani Baradar speaking at the US-Taliban talks held in Doha, Qatar, last February. Photograph: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images Afghanistan Top Taliban leader flies into Kabul for talks on setting up new Afghan regime Abdul Ghani Baradar will meet with ‘legal, religious and foreign policy experts’ and notorious militants Hannah Ellis-Petersen South Asia correspondent Sat 21 Aug 2021 15.23 BST Share on Facebook

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Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the Taliban’s top leaders, arrived in Kabul on Saturday as senior figures began talks on how they will govern Afghanistan.

Baradar, one of the most public faces of the Taliban who made his first return to Afghanistan in over a decade this week, will be leading their efforts to build a model for governing the country in the next few weeks.

Baradar negotiated the exit of US troops with the former US president Donald Trump during peace talks in Dohar, Qatar, and is likely to hold a senior role in the Taliban administration. All eyes are on him to get a sense of how the Taliban intend to rule Afghanistan this time round, and how closely they will resemble the oppressive regime of the past.

When the Taliban previously ruled Afghanistan, from 1996 to 2001, it was under a shroud of secrecy, with their leadership and inner workings kept out of public discussion and the country governed through draconian Islamic laws, particularly concerning women, and archaic punishments such as public executions.

At the talks held in the capital on Saturday, Baradar met with militant commanders, figures from the ousted government and religious scholars.

Since Kabul fell to their control on Sunday, the Taliban have made efforts to portray themselves as civilised, moderate rulers and pledged to build an “inclusive Islamic government” for Afghanistan.

However, the first week of their rule has been tainted by reports of the torture and killing of members of a minority group, Taliban fighters going door-to-door looking for those who collaborated with the US, Nato forces and western organisations, and the murder of the relative of an Afghan journalist who had worked for the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Many Afghans have also been killed in scenes of violence and chaos at Kabul airport.

In recent days, some of the most notorious members of the Taliban have returned to Kabul, including Khalil Haqqani, one of the US’s most wanted terrorists with a $5m (£3.7m) bounty on his head.

According to a Taliban official, the discussions on governance will continue for the next few weeks and there will be separate groups to prepare how they will deal with internal security and financial issues.

A Taliban official told Reuters the Taliban’s “legal, religious and foreign policy experts” would be consulted, while members of the previous government would be brought in for “crisis management”. It is reported that the Taliban will not make official announcements about the government until 31 August, the deadline set by the US for the complete withdrawal of troops.

The Taliban, who follow an ultra-hardline interpretation of Sunni Islam, have dismissed the possibility of a western-style democracy in Afghanistan, but an official said their regime would “protect everyone’s rights”.

Abdullah Abdullah, a former peace envoy in the ousted government who has been working with the Taliban to ensure a peaceful transition of power, tweeted that on Saturday he had met with the Taliban’s acting governor for Kabul, who “assured us that he would do everything possible for the security of the people”.