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Taliban Leaders Gather In Kabul To Discuss Governing Plans

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will reportedly be in Kabul for the meeting.

The Taliban's senior leadership was gathering in Kabul on August 21 to map out its plans for a future government following the hard-line Islamist group's seizure of the Afghan capital.

The gathering was taking place as the Taliban attempts to present a more moderate image after regaining control over most of the country as U.S.-led forces evacuate.

A senior Taliban figure told AFP on condition of anonymity that Taliban co-founder and political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar would meet in Kabul with Taliban military "leaders and politicians for an inclusive government set-up."

Reuters, meanwhile, quoted an unidentified Taliban source as saying that Baradar was in Afghanistan to "delegate responsibility to commanders, meet former government leaders, local militia commanders, policymakers, and religious scholars."

The source told the news agency that the Taliban planned to set up separate teams to deal with internal security and the country's financial crisis.

The meeting of Taliban leadership was expected to include a senior leader of the so-called Haqqani network -- a faction of the Taliban that commands fighters in much of southeast and northeastern Afghanistan. The Haqqani network has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed on August 21 that EU delegates also were in talks with the Taliban leadership.

She stressed that the negotiations, by no means, meant recognition of the Taliban as Afghanistan's new government.

She said the main goal of the talks was to facilitate evacuations from Afghanistan and offer "legal and safe" escape routes for people who are in danger because of the Taliban's seizure of power.

Von der Leyen also held out the prospect of increased humanitarian aid from the European Union. She said a proposal would be made in the near future.

There will be no funds for the Taliban if they do not respect human rights, she said on Twitter, referring to some $1.17 billion in development aid set aside by the EU for Afghanistan during the next seven years.

The Taliban have promised "positively different" rule compared to its last stint in power in Afghanistan from 1996-2001, when it ruled with a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law.

The militant group's seizure of power has raised concerns about a return to harsh conditions for religious minorities and women, who were excluded from public life under the previous Taliban regime.

The Taliban has promised a general amnesty for anyone who worked with the U.S.-backed government, but there have been worrying reports of the militants hunting down journalists as well as former Afghan troops and government officials.

The international rights watchdog Amnesty International has said that Taliban fighters last month "massacred" and brutally tortured several members of Afghanistan's mainly Shi'ite Hazara minority, in what the watchdog called a "horrifying indicator" of the hard-line Sunni militant group's rule.

The Taliban source who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity on August 21 said that the group plans to present a new model for governing Afghanistan in the next few weeks.

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The source said the framework worked out by legal, religious, and foreign-policy experts would not be a democracy, but would "protect everyone's rights."

The Taliban would investigate reports of violence carried out by its members, according to the source.

"We have heard of some cases of atrocities and crimes against civilians," he told Reuters. "If Talibs [members] are doing these law and order problems, they will be investigated."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, and TASS
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