Two days after being named as new acting prime minister for a Taliban caretaker government, Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund is urging former Afghan officials who fled to return to the country. He's vowing that the Taliban "will guarantee their security and safety" should they return and help in the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
Akhund, who before being named head of state, was lesser known to the West than Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, named as deputy prime minister on Tuesday. According to a first exclusive interview given to Al Jazeera, Akhund further said "the caretaker government would guarantee the security of diplomats, embassies and humanitarian relief institutions, stressing that the group wanted to establish positive and strong relations with countries in the region and beyond."
"We have suffered huge losses in money and lives for this historical moment in the history of Afghanistan,” Akhund explained. "The stage of bloodshed, killing and contempt for people in Afghanistan has ended, and we have paid dearly for this."
He backed and reaffirmed prior Taliban assurances of "amnesty" for anyone returning to the country who previously helped the United States after 2001, despite most of these over the past weeks desperately trying the flee the country for fear they will be imprisoned or killed.
On this front, PM Akhund claimed there have been no revenge attacks or killings, given Taliban fighters are on orders to maintain discipline. "No one will be able to prove that he was subjected to revenge. And in such tense circumstances, it is easy to do what you want. But the movement is disciplined and controls its gunmen," he said. "And, we have not harmed anyone because of his previous actions."
This contradicts widespread reports in Western media during the days following the final US troop exit from Kabul international airport on Aug.30 that Taliban gunmen had been going door to door in the capital city actively seeking past collaborators. However, these reports were largely based on the words of eyewitnesses and opposition testimony, which is hard to verify.
In the days of the US evacuation, widespread reports pointed to a revenge campaign...
Horrific reports from #Kabul today of Taliban going door to door, arresting and killing residents.@CameliaFard reporting that targets are of Panjshiri descent. @DominicWaghorn reporting on street executions.— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) September 1, 2021
US acknowledged today it couldn’t evacuate most #Afghanistan’s SIVs.
Akhund continued in the interview: "Therefore, I assure the Islamic nation, especially the Afghan people, that we want all the good, the causes for success and welfare, and we seek to establish an Islamic system." He then urged for "everyone to participate with us in this blessed project."
Despite touting an "inclusive" government, international observers have criticized the Taliban for woeful lack of women in the new government; also a handful of top Taliban officials are actually internationally wanted terrorists, including militants who were formerly detained at Gitmo prison.