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Taliban set to name Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada as Afghanistan’ supreme leader: NYT

NEW YORK: The Taliban are close to forming their government, naming Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada,  as the country’s supreme authority, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing a Taliban official.

The announcement, which will also lay out key appointments to the communications and interior ministries, may come as soon as Thursday, the Times said, citing the official who requested anonymity.

According to interviews with Taliban and other sources in Kabul and Kandahar, the newspaper said that Sheikh Haibatullah would be the supreme authority of the new Islamic government, with a theocratic role similar to that of the Iran’s supreme leader.

Sheikh Haibatullah has been meeting with other leadership figures in Kandahar this week.

Bloomberg News, citing Bilal Karimi, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, also reported on the plans for the new government, including Sheikh Haibatullah’s new role.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban who has served as the group’s deputy leader in recent years, was expected to be in charge of day-to-day affairs as head of government, it said.

Baradar acted as the chief negotiator for the group in peace talks with the United States in Qatar, presiding over the agreement that cleared the way for the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Other key positions in the government, according to the Times,  are expected to go to Sirajuddin Haqqani, another deputy and an influential operations leader within the movement, and Mawlawi Mohammad Yaqoob, who is the son of the Taliban movement’s founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Still unclear was the role of a leadership shura or council, and whether its membership would fulfill the Taliban’s promise of building an inclusive government, the paper said. The question also remains of whether leaders from previous governments, such as Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who have remained in Kabul for talks, will be included.

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