image sourceEPAimage captionThe Taliban fired shots in the air as hundreds of people demonstrated in Kabul on Tuesday

The US has said it is "concerned" after the Taliban unveiled Afghanistan's new all-male government with figures linked to attacks on American forces.

The US State Department said it was "assessing" Tuesday's announcement.

The interim cabinet is led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, who is on a UN blacklist. Another figure, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is wanted by the FBI.

Separately on Tuesday, three people were shot dead at a protest in the western city of Herat.

Medical workers said they were killed when Taliban militants opened fire.

In the capital Kabul, the Taliban also fired warning shots as hundreds of people demonstrated in the streets.

The Islamist group seized control of most of Afghanistan in a sweeping offensive more than three weeks ago, ousting the previous elected leadership.

US Senator Lindsey Graham described the new cabinet as a "line-up of thugs and butchers". He is one of a number of senior Republicans who have condemned as "ill-advised" Democratic President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

The Taliban government – who also on Tuesday declared Afghanistan an "Islamic Emirate" – faces tough challenges in the conflict-torn country, not least stabilising the economy and gaining international recognition.

The group had previously said they wanted to form an inclusive government.

  • Who's who in the Taliban leadership

In a statement on Tuesday, the US State Department said: "We note the announced list of names consists exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or their close associates and no women.

"We also are concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of the individuals."

It added that America would "judge the Taliban by its actions, not words."

The statement said Washington would "continue to hold the Taliban to their commitments to allow safe passage for foreign nationals and Afghans with travel documents, including permitting flights currently ready to fly out of Afghanistan to agreed-upon onward destinations".

"We also reiterate our clear expectation that the Taliban ensure that Afghan soil is not used to threaten any other countries and allow humanitarian access in support of the Afghan people. The world is watching closely."

Ministers told to implement Islamic lawimage captionThe Taliban's spokesman announced the appointments at a press conference

Earlier on Tuesday, a statement attributed to Taliban Supreme Leader Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada told the government to uphold Sharia law – Islam's legal system.

The Taliban want "strong and healthy relations with our neighbours and all other countries based on mutual respect and interaction", said the statement, released in English – with the caveat that they would respect international laws and treaties "that are not in conflict with Islamic law and the country's national values".

Hassan Akhund, the new interim prime minister, served as deputy foreign minister from 1996 to 2001, when the militants were last in power. He is influential on the religious side of the movement, rather than the military side.

His appointment is seen as a compromise, after recent reports of in-fighting between some relatively moderate Taliban figures and their hard-line colleagues.

Interior minister on US terrorism list

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting interior minister, is head of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, who are affiliated with the Taliban and have been behind some of the deadliest attacks in the country's two-decade-long war – including a truck bomb explosion in Kabul in 2017 that killed more than 150 people.

Unlike the wider Taliban, the Haqqani network has been designated a foreign terrorist organisation by the US. It also maintains close ties to al-Qaeda.

According to the FBI's profile on Haqqani, he is "wanted for questioning in connection with the January 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul… that killed six people, including an American citizen".

It adds: "He is believed to have co-ordinated and participated in cross-border attacks against United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan."

A movement which has long moved in the shadows, whose names would surface only on the world's terrorism watch lists, is now announcing titles used in governments the world over.

Acting prime minister Mullah Akhund appears as a compromise candidate after reported rivalries among leading military and political figures who will serve under him.

Its caretaker nature also provides breathing space as the Taliban move from guns to government.

It also underlines the Taliban view that a Taliban victory can only mean Taliban rule. Sources say they pushed back against calls for an "inclusive" government. They balked at including former political figures and officials, who've had their turn at the top, and especially those tainted by corruption.

"Why should we let others pick our cabinet when other countries pick their own? "was one retort.

As for women, there was never a chance they would be given a ministerial role; the ministry of women's affairs seems to have been, for now, abolished altogether.

Other appointments to the new government include:

  • Mullah Yaqoob as acting defence minister. He is the son of Taliban founder and late supreme leader Mullah Omar
  • Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar will be one of the PM's deputies. He oversaw the signing of the US withdrawal agreement last year
  • Amir Khan Muttaqi, an interim foreign minister, also took part in the withdrawal talks

Asked why no women were given posts, one senior Taliban figure told the BBC that the cabinet had not been finalised yet.

The Taliban now claim full control of Afghanistan, saying they have defeated resistance fighters who were holding out against them in the Panjshir valley, north of Kabul.

The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) said it "considers the announcement of the Taliban's caretaker cabinet illegal and a clear sign of the group's enmity with the Afghan people".

image sourceAlamy