By Arab News
By Shershah Nawabi
A day after the Taliban announced an interim government, ending weeks of uncertainty after their return to power last month, several Afghans said on Wednesday they were struggling to make ends meet amid a shortage of funds due to a cap on bank withdrawals.
Near daily protests erupted across various parts of the country in recent days, with demonstrators voicing frustration over security woes and fears of poverty, posing a challenge to the new Afghan government announced on Tuesday.
Banks in Kabul closed their doors after the Taliban took over the Afghan capital on Aug. 15 and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Some reopened last week, with a $200 limit on the amount of cash locals can withdraw.
“Still, it’s not enough,” Abdul Bashir, a former government employee and resident of Kabul, told Arab News.
“Today, I was able to take a part of my money from the bank. It gave me only $200,” he added.
In a statement last week, Afghanistan’s central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank, said curbs on transactions were temporary, and it was “working towards a solution.” No further details were provided about access to the central bank’s reserves.
Kabul was largely silent on Wednesday, with Taliban security forces patrolling different areas of the city to stem new protests after hundreds had gathered to rally across Afghanistan on Tuesday in a show of defiance against the new set-up.
The protests ended after Taliban guards fired shots into the air to disperse crowds, with two people reportedly killed in the western city of Herat.
Later on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declared an all-male caretaker government, seven days after the last US troops left Afghanistan on Aug. 31, appointing leaders from the group’s previous rule from 1996 to 2001.
These include Mullah Hasan Akhund, an associate of Taliban founder Mullah Omar, as the acting prime minister with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, head of the group’s political office in Qatar, as his deputy.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of the founder of the Haqqani network, designated a terrorist organization by the US, has been appointed as the interior minister and Mullah Mohammed Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, as the defense minister.
The war-torn nation of 38 million people will once more be known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and its chief, Hibatullah Akhundzada, will be its supreme leader.
Despite the Taliban’s pledge to form an all-inclusive government, none of the new appointees reflect the country’s political forces and are drawn entirely from the Taliban’s ranks.
Mujahid said several Cabinet posts were yet to be announced, adding that they would “try to take people from other parts of the country,” before declaring that the new cabinet “would begin their work on Wednesday.”
He also sought to allay fears of Afghanistan’s neighbors and the world, saying: “Our message to our neighbors, the region, and the world is that Afghanistan’s soil will not be used against the security of any other country.”
The statement further urged foreign diplomats, embassies, consulates and humanitarian organizations to return to Afghanistan, adding that “their presence is the need of our country.”
Locals, however, implored the Taliban to inject much-needed stability into the war-torn country.
“We want economic change and life without fear, as thousands of the new generation are fleeing,” Abdul Qadir, 35, a Kabul resident, told Arab News.
“We call on the Taliban to provide assurances for them and respect people’s rights,” he added.
Tens of thousands, fearing a return of the Taliban’s repressive form of governance, fled Afghanistan in the past few weeks as part of chaotic evacuation efforts carried out by the US ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden.
The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, girls could not attend school, and women were banned from work and education. This time, however, the group has vowed to honor women’s rights as per Shariah, or Islamic law.
The latest cabinet choices, however, have done little to assuage those fears, prompting sharp reactions from political figures and former government officials.
“There is no professional figure in the Taliban’s cabinet of acting ministers. We believe that all technical ministries would face new challenges,” Mujtaba Paykan, a former government official, told Arab News.
The interim government will also do little to allay concerns among foreign governments, experts say, as the Taliban seek international recognition and are in desperate need of aid.
“International and diplomatic relations with the world are a key for Taliban. The group must understand that Afghanistan relies on international aid; we need to form a government according to the needs of our era,” Qais Zaheer, a Kabul-based international relations analyst, told Arab News.
The Taliban face a massive economic crisis, with the US, other nations and the International Monetary Fund freezing funds since the group’s blitzkrieg last month.
It has thrown the Afghan economy into a state of disarray, with global leaders and lenders waiting to see if the Taliban will stay true to their promise of forming a moderate government, upholding human rights, and staving off a humanitarian crisis.
Russia has said it will only recognize an all-inclusive government while a US State Department spokesman, late on Tuesday, said: “We understand that the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet. However, we will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words.”