NT News

Taliban shows its hand to the world

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KABUL: The Taliban was expected to announce its cabinet overnight, sources said, with a sceptical world watching for clues on whether the new regime will keep its promises to Afghanista­n – particular­ly for women – while facing enormous economic hurdles.

The announceme­nt was set to come after Friday afternoon prayers in Kabul – early Saturday in Australia – amid deep mistrust of the Islamists as they shift gears from insurgent group to governing power, days after the US withdrew and ended their 20-year war.

The West has adopted a wait-and-see approach to engagement with the Taliban, but there were some signs of unfreezing as Western Union announced it was restarting money transfers, and Qatar said it was working to reopen the airport in Kabul – a key lifeline for aid.

China, however, may be taking a more proactive stance. A Taliban spokesman tweeted the foreign ministry in Beijing had promised to keep its embassy in Afghanista­n open and to “beef up” relations and humanitari­an assistance.

The Taliban has pledged a softer rule than their harsh 1996-2001 regime, which also came after years of conflict – first the 1979 Soviet invasion, and then a bloody civil war.

That first regime was notorious for its brutal and violent interpreta­tion of Islamic law, and its treatment of Afghan women, who were forced behind closed doors, banned from school and work and denied freedom of movement.

Now, all eyes are on whether the Taliban can deliver a cabinet capable of managing a war-wracked economy and honour the movement’s vow of a more “inclusive” society.

It comes as a number of Afghan women held a rare protest in the city of Herat (pictured), offering to submit to the restrictiv­e full-body burka if their daughters are still allowed to go to school.

“It is our right to have education, work and security,” the demonstrat­ors chanted.

“We are not afraid, we are united,” they added.

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