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World cautious of Taliban govt as Afghans urge action on rights and economy

The Taliban are now facing the challenge of morphing from insurgents into rulers. Source: AFP/France24.

KABUL (Reuters): Foreign countries have greeted the makeup of the new government in Afghanistan with caution and dismay after the Taliban appointed hardline veteran figures to top positions.

As the newly appointed ministers and their deputies set to work after they were named late on Tuesday, acting Premier Mohammad Hasan Akhund urged former officials who fled Afghanistan to return, saying their safety would be guaranteed. 

“We have suffered heavy losses for this historic moment and the era of bloodshed in Afghanistan is over,” he said. Tens of thousands of people left after the Taliban seized power in mid-August following a lightning military campaign, many of them professionals fearing reprisals because of their association with the Western-backed government.

In Kabul, dozens of women took to the streets again to demand representation in the new administration and for their rights to be protected.

More broadly, people urged the leadership to revive the Afghan economy, which faces steep inflation, food shortages exacerbated by drought and the prospect of international aid being slashed as countries distance themselves from the Taliban.

The United States underscored its wariness on Wednesday. “This is a caretaker Cabinet,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “No one in this administration, not the president nor anyone on the national security team, would suggest that the Taliban are respected and valued members of the global community.”

Read more: Taliban deny Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan

The Islamist militant movement swept to power in a victory hastened by the withdrawal of U.S. military support to Afghan government forces.

The Taliban’s announcement of a new government on Tuesday was widely seen as a signal they were not looking to broaden their base and present a more tolerant face to the world.

The group has promised to respect people’s rights and not seek vendettas, but it has been criticised for its heavy-handed response to protests and its part in a chaotic evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul airport.