Taliban supreme leader pays rare visit to Kabul, warns foreigners not to interfere in Afghanistan – state media


Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada again warned foreigners not to interfere in Afghanistan in a rare speech at a gathering of Islamic clerics in Kabul on Friday, according to state media.

The reclusive leader told the conference that Afghanistan « cannot develop without being independent », according to the state-run Bakhtar news agency.

“Thank God we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) shouldn’t give us their orders, it’s our system and we have our own decisions,” Akhundzada added.

In his speech, Akhundzada hailed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last August, nearly two decades after they were driven out of Kabul by US troops, saying: « The success of the Afghan jihad is not is not only a source of pride for Afghans but also for all Muslims. in the world. »

The speed of the takeover, just weeks after the start of the US troop withdrawal, took the world by surprise and led to the dissolution of the foreign-backed government of Ashraf Ghani, who had fled the country.

Akhundzada made the comments in an audio recording during a three-day religious gathering attended by 3,000 attendees – all men, according to state media. The meeting was not open to the media, but CNN listened to the recording of Akhundzada’s speech.

The rally in Kabul began on Thursday. Akhundzada is based in Kandahar, the birthplace and spiritual heart of the Taliban, is rarely photographed in public, a fact that has fueled rumors over the years that he was ill or possibly dead. No photos of Akhundzada attending the meeting, which began Thursday in Kabul, have been released.

A senior religious figure from the Taliban’s founding generation, Akhundzada, was named leader of the Taliban in 2016 after the group’s former leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan.

He retained the post when the group announced its caretaker government in September.

Akhundzada ruled out including past administrations in the formation of any future government, although he said he had « forgiven » them.

“I forgave the oppressors of the old regime. I don’t hold them responsible for their past actions, if someone has created problems for them without committing new crimes, I will punish them. However, forgiving does not mean bringing them into government,” Akhundzada said in the audio recording.

The message appeared to contradict statements made by other members of the Taliban leadership in recent months, who have expressed openness to a more inclusive government in order to gain international support.

The international community has repeatedly called on the Taliban to expand the ranks of its government and restore the rights of women and girls, who have been stripped since the group took power, if they are to be officially recognized. The World Bank has frozen projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the issue.

Women in Afghanistan can no longer work in most sectors and need a male guardian for long journeys, while girls have been barred from returning to secondary school.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghanistan’s acting interior minister and the Taliban’s co-deputy leader since 2016, told CNN in May that there would be « good news soon » about the Taliban’s broken promise to allow girls to return to school, but suggested that women who protested the regime’s restrictions on women’s rights should stay home.

At an urgent meeting in Geneva on Friday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that « women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing the biggest and fastest setback in the enjoyment of their rights at all levels for decades ».

Addressing clerics, Akhundzada reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of Sharia, Islam’s legal system derived from the Quran, while expressing his opposition to the « unbelievers’ way of life ».

The Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Sharia when in power led to dozens of violent punishments, including the stoning of suspected adulterers, public executions and amputations.

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