No 10 calls for diverse leaders in Afghanistan after hardline cabinet revealed

·4-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets members of 16 Air Assault Brigade at the Brigade Headquarters at Merville Barracks in Colchester, Essex, following their recent deployment to Afghanistan (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets members of 16 Air Assault Brigade at the Brigade Headquarters at Merville Barracks in Colchester, Essex, following their recent deployment to Afghanistan (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)

The interim government formed in Afghanistan is not the “diverse group of leadership” that can address equality pledges made by the Taliban Downing Street has suggested.

The Taliban announced an interim cabinet of hardliners on Tuesday, comprised completely of men and including a number of figures connected to attacks on US forces.

The US State Department said it was “concerned by the affiliations and track records” of some of the senior leaders, and in a statement said: “We will judge the Taliban by its actions, not words. We have made clear our expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government.”

On Wednesday, Downing Street said it shared those concerns.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters: “Absolutely we would want to see, in any situation, a diverse group of leadership which seeks to address the pledges that the Taliban themselves set out, and that’s not what we have seen, and we will continue to judge them on their actions.”

Many of the top posts have been handed to those who dominated the 20-year conflict with the West.

Interim prime minister Mullah Hasan Akhund led the Taliban government in Kabul during the last years of its rule and is on a UN blacklist.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the country’s new interior minister, appears on the FBI’s most-wanted list with a reward of $10 million (£7.26 million) for his capture.

The FBI said he is believed to have coordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan and describes him as a “specially designated global terrorist” with close links to al Qaida.

Other members are reported to have been previously held at Guantanamo Bay for terror offences.

It comes after the group attempted to present its takeover in Afghanistan as a marked departure from their past rule.

Downing Street also insisted officials were doing all they could to reply to emails highlighting potential cases eligible for help fleeing the country.

MPs have raised concerns that their emails about cases potentially eligible for help had not been responded to, despite a pledge from the Prime Minister on Monday that all would receive a reply by the end of the day.

Raising a point of order in the Commons, Labour’s Chris Bryant (Rhondda) recalled that on Monday the Prime Minster “said that we would all have responses by the end of the day and the Foreign Secretary then repeated it – that commitment later on in the day”.

He said: “Unfortunately this just hasn’t happened. In so far as there has been any response at all from Government it is a single email from a junior minister in the Foreign Office which says that we can go and look at a website.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant criticised the Government (Rick Findler/PA) (PA Archive)
Labour MP Chris Bryant criticised the Government (Rick Findler/PA) (PA Archive)

He added: “So many of our case workers across the House are in tears every day because they’re having so many cases that are brought to them.

“I mentioned on Monday that the three people out of the 143 that I’ve raised, one of whom’s been shot, one of whom’s been raped and one of whom’s been tortured.

“We’re all facing these things. I wonder whether there’s anything you can do in your powers to make sure that we get proper answers on these, we can’t just abandon these people.”

Conservative Sir Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) added: “It is really unfair on our staff, let alone our constituents, that we can’t give them – this is the first time since I’ve been in the House that I’ve not been able to give them the sort of answers that I would expect a minister to give.”

Responding, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “The fact is obligations were made by the Government to actually deal with the issues and they would respond accordingly.”

He added: “We might have been discussing if the Opposition day hadn’t been pulled…. it’s not acceptable to make pledges that aren’t carried out and in fact if this continues it might be that we need a UQ (urgent question) to actually discuss the issue of why we aren’t getting the responses through.

“Ministers should reply to MPs, they are accountable to this House and I expect ministers to reply accordingly to MPs.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters on Wednesday: “I think obviously there is a significant amount of communication coming to the Foreign Office, to the Home Office, and to Government ministers more generally and we’re doing everything possible to address those.”

He added: “All I can say is we’re working across Government to address that.”

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