Supreme Taliban leader makes rare visit to Kabul, warns foreigners not to meddle in Afghanistan – state media

Supreme Taliban leader makes rare visit to Kabul, warns foreigners not to meddle in Afghanistan - state media
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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) should not give us orders, this is our system and we have our own decisions,” Akhundzada added.

In the speech, Akhundzada praised The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban last August, almost two decades after they were driven out of Kabul by US troops, saying: “The success of the Afghan jihad is not only a source of pride for Afghans, but also for Muslims around the world.”

The speed of the takeover, just weeks after the US troop withdrawal began, surprised the world and led to the dissolution of the foreign-backed government of Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country.

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

The gathering in Kabul began on Thursday. Akhundzada is based in Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace and spiritual heartland, and is rarely photographed in public, a fact that fueling rumours during the years when he was ill or possibly dead. No photos have been released of Akhundzada attending the meeting, which began in Kabul on Thursday.
Akhundzada is known to be a reclusive leader.  He was identified in this undated photo by several Taliban officials who declined to be named.

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

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

Akhundzada ruled out the involvement of previous administrations in forming a future government, although he said he had “forgiven” them.

“I forgave the oppressors of the previous regime. I don’t hold them accountable for their past actions, if someone causes them trouble without committing new crimes, I will punish them. However, forgiveness does not mean bringing him into the government,” Akhundzada said in the audio.

The announcement appeared to contradict statements made by other members of the Taliban leadership in recent months, who expressed a willingness for a more inclusive government to gain international support.

The international community has repeatedly called on the Taliban to expand the ranks of their government and restore the rights of women and girls that have been denied since the group seized power, if they want to be officially recognized. The World Bank has frozen projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the problem.

Women in Afghanistan they can no longer work in most sectors and require a male guardian for long-distance travel, while girls are barred from returning to secondary school.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, acting interior minister of Afghanistan and deputy leader of the Taliban since 2016. told CNN in May that there would be “good news” soon on the Taliban’s still-unfulfilled promise to allow girls to return to school, but suggested that women protesting the regime’s restrictions on women’s rights should stay home.

At an emergency meeting held in Geneva on Friday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that “women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing the most significant and rapid delay in the enjoyment of their rights anywhere in decades.”

Speaking to the clerics, Akhundzada reaffirmed his commitment to the implementation of Sharia, Islam’s legal system derived from the Koran, while expressing his opposition to the “lifestyle of non-believers”.

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

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