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Taliban appoint hardline battlefield commanders to key Afghan posts By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO A Taliban soldier strolls on a Kabul street, Afghanistan September 17, 2021. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers announced several senior appointments on Tuesday, naming two veteran battlefield commanders from the movement’s southern heartlands as deputies in important ministries.

Zabihullah Mujahid the main Taliban spokesperson said Mullah Qayyum Zkir will serve as deputy defence minister while Sadr Islam was appointed deputy minister for interior. They were both expected to be in major posts in the new government. However, they weren’t named on the main list.

U.N. reports identified the men as battlefield commanders for Mullah Takhtar Mansour, who was pressing the government against Western support.

These appointments are the latest additions to the list of hardliners within the main group ministers. They include Sirajuddin Haqqani (head of militant Haqqani networks), who was blamed for several attacks on civilian targets.

The appointments are also indicative of the Taliban’s concern to ensure unity and to balance the personal and regional differences as it transitions from being a wartime rebel force to an administration in peacetime.

In June’s U.N. Security Council reports, Sadr and Zakir commanded mahaz forces that had traditionally served in several provinces.

The leadership was concerned that their independence would fuel tensions between certain groups in the country’s south and southwest.

Zakir was an ex-detainee at the U.S. military jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He had been a close friend of Mullah Omar, late founder of Taliban. According to media reports, he was taken prisoner by U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan during 2001. He was held in Guantanamo Bay until 2007.

His release was granted and he was handed to the Afghan government. He had been widely expected to be the defence minister of the new government, before Mullah Mohammed Yaqoob’s son was elected to that post.

Sadr, who is a former commander of the Taliban military Commission from the south province of Helmand will serve as deputy to Sirajuddin Haiqani, whose relatives are from the eastern borders with Pakistan.

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