KABUL : The observers of international affairs remained sceptical as the Taliban in Afghanistan unveiled its “caretaker” government, days after taking over the country in a military offensive.
On Wednesday, former Indian diplomat Meera Shankar dubbed the new cabinet, to be led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan, the little-known head of the Taliban’s leadership council, an “old wine in a new bottle” due to its leadership comprising exclusively from loyalist ranks, according to a report by PTI.
“It does not appear promising and indeed there is cause for concern because it seems to be old wine in a new bottle because many of the players who have been appointed are the same (that were there in the previous Taliban regime),” the news agency PTI quoted Shankar as saying. She has served as India’s Ambassador to the United States between 2009 and 2011.
Shankar also said, “one would have to wait and see what the development means for India in terms of the policies that the Taliban adopt,” as per PTI report.
Shankar also noted that the presence of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general (DG) Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed while the cabinet formation was being discussed, showed that there was an “overt” Pakistani interference and not a subtle one anymore.
Other former envoys of the country also echoed similar views as they said the cabinet formed in Kabul has dispelled “myths” of Taliban 2.0 and asserted that it has a strong Pakistani imprint on it which is a “cause of concern” for India.
The Taliban, a US-designated terrorist group, completed its transition from insurgents force to governing power, as they unveiled an interim government and named ministers of key departments. However, it was immediately met with doubts as 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.
The new interim government will be led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan, the little-known head of the Taliban’s leadership council, while the Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the face of the Islamist group, will serve as his deputy. The group also included Sirajuddin Haqqani who has a $10 million US bounty on his head, as the interior minister.
However, known for their brutal and oppressive rule from 1996 to 2001, the insurgents’ group has promised a “more moderate” rule this time.
“This is clearly the same as Taliban 1.0 with ISI fingerprints all over it,” said Rakesh Sood, a former Indian envoy to Afghanistan.
Anil Wadhwa, who served as secretary (east) in the Union ministry of external affairs before retiring in 2017, said it was quite expected that the government will not be an ‘inclusive’ government as people expected it to be.
“The Taliban factions have found their own balance and the extremist elements are prevalent there; the others are sidelined, so basically the Doha faction has been sidelined. To have expected an inclusive government for an outfit like this especially when Pakistan is playing a very strong hand was not really up to reality,” he told PTI.
The diplomat also called it a setback for India and other western countries like the US. “But I have a feeling that since these countries (West) are far away from the action in Afghanistan, they will gradually over time come to live with it. But the country that will face the brunt of it would possibly be India, perhaps later on countries like Iran and Russia, but not so much China,” Wadhwa added.
Meanwhile, the foreign minister of Afghanistan is handed to Amir Khan Muttaqi while Mullah Yaqoob, son of Taliban’s founder Mullah Omar, will serve as the acting defence minister. None of the government appointees were women.