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Taliban Set To Unveil Government As World Watches Its Actions, Not Words


Anas Haqqani (center), the youngest son of Taliban co-founder Jalaluddin Haqqani, is escorted by Taliban fighters as he visits Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. withdrawal in Kabul on August 31.

The Taliban appears set to unveil its government just weeks after seizing control of most of the country, but international recognition of the militants as rulers remains a distant goal as many of the world's leading nations wait to see if the administration's actions are in line with its vows of being more moderate than their previous rule two decades ago.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on September 2 that a new government was a matter of a few days away, while another Taliban member, Ahmadullah Muttaqi, said on social media that a ceremony was being prepared at the presidential palace in Kabul.

The legitimacy of the new administration in the eyes of international donors and investors will be crucial for the economy, which is in tatters as the country battles drought and the ravages of a conflict that took the lives of an estimated 240,000 Afghans.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on September 2 that London won’t recognize the Taliban government soon, but added that “there is an important scope” for dialogue with it.

In a joint press conference with his Qatari counterpart in Doha, Raab said he supported “engagement” with the Taliban, and cited freedom of travel for both foreigners and Afghans as an "important first test" of the hard-line Islamist group’s relationship with the West.

“We will judge them by what they do, not just by what they say” on issues such as making sure Afghanistan does not harbor terrorists, preventing a humanitarian crisis, and holding to account the Taliban on their commitments, including “in the field of human rights and the treatment of women and girls," he said.

The foreign secretary insisted that the British government would "not be recognizing the Taliban any time in the foreseeable future," and said that Britain was trying to build a regional coalition to "exert the maximum moderating influence" on the Taliban.

Russia, which had taken steps to develop a sound working relationship with the Taliban even before the group it considers to be "terrorist" returned to power, said on September 2 that it would consider recognizing its authority once an "inclusive government" is formed.

"We call for the establishment of an inclusive coalition government in Afghanistan that would involve all of the country’s ethnic and political forces, including ethnic minorities, so the question of recognizing the country’s authorities will rise after the process is over," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow.

Zakharova also said that she took recent calls by the Taliban for foreign embassies in Afghanistan to resume their work as a sign that the group was willing to work with the international community.

The United States and its allies were able to evacuate more than 123,000 foreigners and Afghans from Kabul since August 14, the day before the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan two decades after being removed from power by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

But tens of thousands of Afghans who had helped Western nations oust the militants during a 20-year war and others at risk remained behind.

The militants have promised to allow Afghans to travel freely in and out of the country, but many remain in doubt about the group's intentions.

Days after the last U.S. troops withdrew, the Kabul airport remains shut but international efforts are under way to resume operations there to facilitate humanitarian assistance and further evacuations.

Speaking alongside Raab, Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the Gulf Arab state was working with the Taliban to reopen Kabul's airport “as soon as possible.”

Qatar was also working with Turkey for potential technical support to restart operations at the airport, he said, adding that he hoped for “some good news" in the coming days.

Last U.S. Flight Leaves Kabul, Activists Brace For ‘Wave Of Repression’ From The Taliban
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Al-Jazeera, citing an Afghan civil aviation official, reported that domestic flights from Kabul airport will resume on September 3, though international flights will "take time" before restarting.

Since the Western-backed government and Afghan army collapsed under a lightning Taliban offensive, thousands of Afghans have fled their homes fearing a repeat of the Taliban's brutal rule between 1996 and 2001.

Large numbers of Afghans had been crossing the border daily into neighboring Pakistan before Islamabad announced on September 2 that it was temporarily closing the Chaman crossing along the border of Afghanistan's southeastern Kandahar Province and Pakistan's Balochistan Province.

Reporting from a temporary camp established in Chaman to house Afghan refugees, RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal said that Afghans with IDs from Kandahar Province's Spin Boldak and Kandahar districts were being allowed to both enter and exit the border crossing under the new arrangement.

A severe drought that has lasted weeks has contributed to the dire situation for Afghans, with aid agencies saying that millions could face starvation.

"Since August 15 [when the Taliban took over], we have seen the crisis accelerate and magnify with the imminent economic collapse that is coming this country's way," Mary-Ellen McGroarty, World Food Program (WFP) country director in Afghanistan, told Reuters from Kabul on September 2.

Food prices have spiked since the second drought in four years ruined some 40 percent of the wheat crop, according to the WFP.

The Taliban has declared an amnesty for all Afghans who worked with foreign forces during the war that ousted it from power and said it was in talks with “all factions” to reach an agreement on a future government.

The Taliban has promised a more tolerant and open brand of rule compared with their first stint in power. However, many reports have said summary executions and house-to-house searches for those who worked with international groups or the previous government are occurring across the country.

While the Taliban has control of Kabul and other provincial capitals, it is still fighting with opposition groups and remnants of the Afghan Army, led by Ahmad Massud, son of a former mujahedin commander who fought against the Taliban in northeastern Afghanistan in the late 1990s, holding out in mountains north of the capital.

Renewed fighting was reported in Panjshir Valley on September 2, with each side saying it had inflicted heavy casualties in recent days of combat.

This story includes reporting by Radio Azadi correspondents on the ground in Afghanistan. Their names are being withheld for their protection.

With reporting by Reuters, Al Jazeera, and AFP
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