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Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. Photo: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Taliban announced the first members of a caretaker Afghan government on Tuesday, naming Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund as acting prime minister and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as acting deputy prime minister.

Why it matters: Many have been waiting to learn the makeup and policies of the new Islamist government before deciding whether to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.

  • "The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is: any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned," Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in an address last week, as he urged the group to uphold its commitments on human rights and counterterrorism.
  • The U.S., other countries and international organizations plan to continue sending humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but it's unclear whether and how many of those entities will engage directly with the Taliban in doing so.

Details ... The temporary Cabinet is dominated by senior, old-guard Taliban officials, including the leader of the Haqqani network — a faction of the militant group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S:

  • Acting prime minister: Muhammad Hassan Akhund, little-known head of Taliban leadership council and UN-designated terrorist
  • Acting deputy prime minister: Abdul Ghani Baradar, original Taliban co-founder and head of Doha political office
  • Acting interior minister: Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is wanted by the FBI for terrorism activity
  • Acting defense minister: Mohammad Yaqoob, son of late Taliban founder Mohammed Omar
  • Acting foreign minister: Amir Khan Muttaqi
  • Acting deputy foreign minister: Abas Stanikzai

Flashback: Baradar was one of the four original founders of the Taliban in 1994 and served in various positions of leadership from 1996 to 2001. Following the U.S. invasion and the Taliban's fall, he fled to Pakistan.

  • In 201o, Baradar was captured by Pakistani forces in Karachi but released from prison in 2018 after former President Trump’s Afghanistan envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, requested his release so that Baradar could help lead the peace negotiations.
  • His release from prison was intended as a gesture of goodwill to get the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

The big picture: Since their swift takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban have offered vague assurances that they have changed since the days of their totalitarian, oppressive rule of the 1990s — pledging to form an "inclusive" government and allow women's freedoms "within Islamic law."

  • No women or non-Taliban figures were named to the caretaker government on Tuesday.
  • Their rhetoric has also been undermined in many cases by the actions of Taliban fighters on the ground, with countless reports of revenge killings and women being blocked from work or school over the past several weeks.
  • It remains to be seen how well the Taliban will be able to maintain control over Afghanistan in the face of protests and ongoing resistance from opposition groups in the northern part of the country.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 25, 2021 - World

U.S. threatens to cut aid to Sudan after military takeover

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

The latest: The head of the military faction of the Sudanese government, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, said in a statement that he is announcing a state of emergency, suspending several parts of the interim constitution and dissolving the civilian government and interim sovereignty council — the highest governing body in the country.

Texas House probes school library books dealing with race and sexuality

Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause (R), chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, announced Wednesday that he's initiating a probe into schools' library books, according to a letter sent to the state's education agency and other superintendents.

Why it matters: The probe focuses on books that discuss race, sexuality, or "make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," Krause wrote in the letter.

2 hours ago - World

Iran agrees to resume Vienna nuclear talks in November

Ali Bagheri (R) with Enrique Mora in Tehran on Oct. 14. Photo: Iranian Foreign Ministry handout via Getty

Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator said following a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Iran would resume negotiations in Vienna before the end of November, with the exact date to be set next week.

Why it matters: The Vienna talks have been frozen since Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected in June. This is the most direct commitment from Raisi's government to return to the negotiating table.