Taliban add more men in expansion of interim Cabinet

Taliban add more men in expansion of interim Cabinet
© KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban expanded its interim Cabinet on Tuesday, filling the new minister and deputy roles with all men as women continue to be left out of the insurgent group’s new government.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, during a new conference on Tuesday, said the new deputies were elevated to the Cabinet for their technical skills, according to The Associated Press. He also defended the group’s picks by noting that some of the latest additions are members of ethnic minorities, including the Hazaras.

The new male Cabinet selections come after the Taliban earlier this month announced its interim Afghan government, which is entirely comprised of men. One of the new government officials is the leader of a U.S.-designated terrorist group: Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is wanted by the FBI, was named acting interior minister.

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The absence of any female members of the interim Cabinet is worrying Afghan women, who are fearful that the Taliban will resort to its strict interpretation of Islam that it enforced when it last ruled in the country in the late 1990s.

That philosophy prevented girls and women from attending schools, work and public life.

Mujahid on Tuesday left the door open to women potentially being added to the Cabinet at a later time, according to the AP, but he did not offer any specific information. He also said the Taliban is readying regulations for allowing teenage girls and women to attend schools and jobs that are in line with Islamic law.

He did not, however, offer a timeline for such rules.

Mujahid reportedly reacted angrily and defensively when discussing international conditions for recognition of the group’s government, arguing that there was no reason to not identify the Cabinet.

“It is the responsibility of the United Nations to recognize our government [and] for other countries, including European, Asian and Islamic countries, to have diplomatic relations with us,” Mujahid said, according to the AP.

The international community has said it will judge the insurgent group based on its actions and that recognition of a Taliban government would be connected to its treatment of women and minorities, according to the news wire.

Mujahid last month said Afghan women must be shown respect by the Taliban, contending that they would have “all the rights that Islam promises” and that “they can be doctors, teachers, be educated and can work to benefit society.”

Since then, however, the insurgent group has placed some restrictions on those rights. For example, the Taliban’s new minister of higher education said Afghan women can only study in gender-segregated university classrooms.