Taliban doubles down on all-male ministers, says will include women later

Topics Taliban | Afghanistan

Taliban govt’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid during a press conference in Kabul
The Taliban expanded their interim Cabinet by naming more ministers and deputies on Tuesday, but failed to appoint any women, doubling down on a hard-line course despite the international outcry that followed their initial presentation of an all-male government lineup earlier this month.

The international community has said that it will judge the Taliban by their actions, and that recognition of a Taliban-led government would be linked to the treatment of women and minorities. In their previous rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Taliban, who adhere to a harsh interpretation of Islam, had barred girls and women from schools, work and public life. 

At a news conference Tuesday, Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid held out the possibility of adding women to the Cabinet at a later time, but gave no specifics. He also said the Taliban are preparing rules for allowing teen-age girls and women to return to schools and jobs in line with Islamic law, but did not say when that might happen.

Mujahid defended the latest additions to the Cabinet, saying they included members of ethnic minorities, such as the Hazaras. He said the deputies were chosen for their technical skills.

He bristled at international conditions for recognition, saying there was no reason for withholding it. “It is the responsibility of the UN to recognise our government (and) for other countries, including European, Asian and Islamic countries, to have diplomatic relations with us,” he said. The Taliban seek international support as they grapple with the daunting challenges of governing a nation shredded by four decades of conflict. The US-backed government deposed by the Taliban in a rapid military campaign last month had depended heavily on foreign aid. 

Even before the Taliban takeover, the economy was in deep trouble. Now Afghan­istan's new rulers face an economic meltdown and growing poverty. Mujahid played down the financial problems, saying that much of the foreign aid to the previous government — widely seen as corrupt — was spent on funding America's 20-year war against the Taliban.

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