Taliban to appoint Haibatullah Akhundzada as Afghanistan’s supreme leader: NYT

NEW YORK: As the formation of Afghanistan’s new government is in its final stages, the Taliban are all set to appoint Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada as the country’s supreme leader, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing a Taliban official.

The announcement may come as soon as Thursday, according to the US newspaper. The Taliban are also prepared to fill key posts to run the government in the war-torn country, the Taliban official on the condition of anonymity revealed, the NYT reported.

Sheikh Haibatullah has been meeting with other key Taliban leaders in Kandahar this week.

Bloomberg News, citing Bilal Karimi, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, also reported on the plans for the new government, including Sheikh Haibatullah’s new role.

Head of the new government

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban who has served as the group’s deputy leader in recent years, was expected to be in charge of the day-to-day affairs as head of government, it said.

Baradar acted as the chief negotiator for the group in peace talks with the United States in Qatar, presiding over the agreement that cleared the way for the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Share of Haqqani group in government

Other key positions in the government, according to the Times, are expected to go to Sirajuddin Haqqani, another deputy and an influential operations leader within the movement, and Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob, who is the son of the Taliban movement’s founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Still unclear was the role of a leadership shura or council, and whether its membership would fulfill the Taliban’s promise of building an inclusive government, the paper said. The question also remains of whether leaders from previous governments, such as Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who have remained in Kabul for talks, will be included.

Other Taliban leaders expected to receive cabinet posts included Sadar Ibrahim, who has functioned as de facto interior minister since the Taliban’s takeover, the Times said.