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Afghanistan prime minister defends Taliban’s rule amid economic crisis

Taliban fighter Abdul Hadi Hamdan leads evening prayers outside the Kabul airport
Taliban fighter Abdul Hadi Hamdan leads evening prayers outside the Kabul airport on Aug. 29 as the U.S. was finishing its pullout from Afghanistan.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Afghanistan’s Taliban prime minister defended the group’s rule in a public address Saturday, saying it was not to blame for a worsening economic crisis and is working to repair the corruption of the ousted government. He also dismissed international pressure for the formation of a more inclusive Cabinet.

The half-hour audio played on state-run media was the first such public address by Mohammad Hassan Akhund since the Taliban captured Kabul and secured its rule over the country three months ago. The Taliban takeover led to a shutoff of international aid to the government and the blocking of billions of dollars in Afghan assets held abroad, worsening an already crumbling economy.

Akhund said the problems of worsening unemployment and the financial meltdown had begun under the previous, U.S.-backed government, adding that Afghans should not believe claims that the Taliban was to blame.

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“Nation, be vigilant. Those left over from the previous government in hiding are ... causing anxiety, misleading the people to distrust their government,” he said.

The Los Angeles Police Department went on tactical alert late Friday night after a series of reports of smash-and-grab robberies.

The ousted government had run “the weakest system in the world,” he said, pointing to pervasive corruption. In contrast, he said, the Taliban is eliminating corruption and has brought security around the country.

“We are trying as much as possible to solve the problems of the people. We are working overtime in every department,” Akhund said, adding that the group had formed committees to try to resolve the economic crisis and pay salaries to government employees, who have largely gone without pay for months.

United Nations officials have warned of a humanitarian crisis, with millions of Afghans plunging deeper into poverty and facing hunger to the verge of starvation. Afghanistan has been hit by one of its worst famines in decades, and the economic collapse has meant many people are unable to afford food.

Akhund urged people to pray for an end to the famine, which he called “a test from God, after people rebelled against him.”

The United States and other countries have refused to recognize the Taliban government until it includes more of Afghanistan’s ethnic and political spectrum — as well as women — and until it guarantees women’s rights.

All the ministers in the current Cabinet come from the Taliban’s ranks. The Taliban has not completely barred women from the public sphere as it did during its previous rule in the late 1990s. But it has ordered most women government employees not to come to work and has not let high school girls return to school, though it has allowed younger girls.

Akhund dismissed the demands, saying the government has members from around the country. He insisted the Islamic Emirate — as the Taliban calls its government — “has saved women’s dignity.”


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