KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The Taliban expanded their transitional cabinet on Tuesday to include more ministers and deputies, but they do not appoint women and are doubling down on a tough course despite the international outcry of their first presentation of an all-male government roster earlier this month.
The international community has declared that it will judge the Taliban by its actions and that recognition of a Taliban-led government is tied to the treatment of women and minorities.
In their previous rule in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Taliban, who adhere to a harsh interpretation of Islam, excluded girls and women from school, work and public life.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid offered the possibility of admitting women to the cabinet at a later date, but gave no details. He also said the Taliban are preparing rules that will allow teenage girls and women to return to schools and workplaces in accordance with Islamic law, but did not say when this could happen.
Mujahid defended the recent additions to the cabinet, saying they included members of ethnic minorities such as the Hazaras. He said the MPs were chosen based on their technical ability.
He was reluctant to accept the international conditions for recognition and said there was no reason to refuse recognition. “It is the responsibility of the United Nations to recognize our government (and) have diplomatic relations with us on behalf of other countries, including European, Asian and Islamic countries,” he said.
The Taliban seek international support as they grapple with the daunting challenges of governing a nation torn by four decades of conflict. The US-backed government, ousted by the Taliban in a swift military campaign last month, relied heavily on foreign aid. Even before the Taliban took over, the economy was in great difficulty. Now Afghanistan’s new rulers are facing economic collapse and growing poverty.
Mujahid downplayed the financial troubles, saying that much of the foreign aid to the previous administration – widely viewed as corrupt – was being used to fund the US’s 20-year war against the Taliban.
He suggested Afghanistan could do without this aid and said the country had sufficient resources. “After our inspection, Afghanistan is not a financially failed country,” he said. “We have revenue, and if it is properly controlled and collected, it can solve our current problems.”
However, it was not clear how the Taliban government expected to generate sufficient tax revenue from a population the United Nations said would be 97% below the poverty line by the end of the year.
The Taliban have designed their current cabinet as a transitional government, suggesting that a change is still possible, but they have not said whether there will ever be elections.
Mujahid was also asked about recent restrictions on girls and women, including the decision not to allow girls in grades seven through twelve to return to classrooms for the time being. Boys in these grades were allowed to go back to school at the weekend.
Mujahid said this is a temporary decision and “it will be announced soon when you can go to school”. He said plans were being made to allow girls and women to return to schools and work in accordance with Islamic law or Sharia law.
Girls in grades one to six are currently allowed to go to school, and women at universities can continue their studies, but only in gender-segregated settings and in accordance with an Islamic dress code.
With the Taliban coming to power, women and girls fear losing the accomplishments of the past 20 years, and many of their concerns have been realized. The Taliban have repeatedly indicated that their decisions are temporary in order to overtly defuse international criticism, even as they issue harsh decrees.
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