Inside look at Taliban all-male cabinet: Minister wanted by FBI, with a bounty on his head
The Taliban on Tuesday announced a hardline government in Afghanistan after weeks of deliberation, revealing an all-male cabinet that also includes a top official who is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)'s ‘most wanted’ list, with a bounty of up to $10 million on his head. Sirajuddin Haqqani, who has been named the interior minister of the new interim government, has reportedly been a senior leader of the Taliban since 2016. The United States terms him as a “specially designated global terrorist” with close ties to al Qaeda, and with the man now being named to one of the seniormost posts in the Afghan state machinery, experts believe that the United States has cause to worry.
According to the FBI page for Haqqani, the man is known by several aliases – including Siraj, Khalifa, Mohammad Siraj, Sarajadin, Cirodjiddin, Seraj, Arkani, and Khalifa Shahib. The 'rewards for justice' programme under the United States department of state is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading directly to the arrest of Sirajuddin Haqqani.
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Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul. The attack, which killed six people including an American citizen, is believed to have been coordinated by Haqqani himself, who has had a history of cross-border attacks against the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan. As per the FBI, Haqqani was also allegedly involved in planning the assassination attempt on former Afghan president Hamid Karzai in 2008.
Meanwhile, the United States said late on Tuesday that it is concerned about the "affiliations and track records" of some of the people named by the Taliban to fill top posts in Afghanistan's new government. A spokesperson for the US state department released a statement reiterating the expectation that the Taliban “ensure that Afghan soil is not used to threaten any other countries and allow humanitarian access in support of the Afghan people”.
The Taliban government is made up of leadership drawn entirely from its ranks, it was revealed on Tuesday, despite the group's erstwhile promises to form an “inclusive cabinet”. Women, who the Taliban promised will play a ‘prominent role’ in the new Afghan society, were conveniently omitted from the new caretaker government; there was no mention of a ministry for women. Many of the senior members of the Taliban cabinet have also been sanctioned by the United Nations, which is more than likely to muddy the waters further for international recognition and diplomacy.
Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, one of the founding members of the Taliban influential on the religious side of things was named the prime minister, while the group's chief Hibatullah Akhundzada will be declared the ‘supreme leader’. Mullah Yaqoob, the son of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, has been named the defence minister while Haqqani, as mentioned earlier, will be the acting interior minister.
As was the case under the previous Taliban regime in the 1990s, the new regime in Afghanistan will also see the resurgence of the notorious ministry for ‘promotion of virtue and prevention of vice’, responsible for policing and enforcing the Taliban's extreme interpretation of Islamic law.