Mullah Baradar may lead new Afghanistan govt – sources

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar may lead a new Afghan government set to be announced soon, sources in the group said on Friday, as its fighters battled forces loyal to the vanquished republic in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul.

But the new government’s most immediate priority would be to avert the collapse of an economy grappling with drought and the ravages of a 20-year conflict that killed around 240,000 Afghans before U.S. forces completed a tumultuous pullout on Aug. 30.

Baradar, who heads the Taliban’s political office, will be joined by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, in senior positions in the government, three sources said.

“All the top leaders have arrived in Kabul, where preparations are in final stages to announce the new government,” a Taliban official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban’s supreme religious leader, will focus on religious matters and governance within the framework of Islam, another Taliban source said.

The Taliban, which seized Kabul on Aug. 15 after sweeping across most of the country, have faced resistance in the Panjshir Valley, where there have been reports of heavy fighting and casualties.

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