Taliban supreme leader makes rare visit to Kabul, urges foreigners not to interfere in Afghan affairs – state media

The reclusive leader told conference attendees that Afghanistan “cannot develop without being independent,” according to the state-run Bakhtar news agency.

“Thank God, we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) should not give us their orders, this is our system, and we have our own decisions,” Akhundzade added.

In his speech, Akhundzade highly appreciated Taliban takeover of Afghanistan Last August, almost two decades after they were driven out of Kabul by US forces, they said, “The success of the Afghan jihad is a source of pride not only for Afghans, but for Muslims around the world.”

The speed of the seizure of power just weeks after the start of the withdrawal of US troops took the world by surprise and led to the dissolution of the foreign-backed government of Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country.

Akhundzadeh made the comments in an audio recording during a three-day religious gathering attended by 3,000 people, all of whom were men, according to state media. The meeting was closed to the media, but CNN listened to the recording of Akhundzade’s speech.

The gathering in Kabul began on Thursday. Akhundzade lives in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and the spiritual center, is rarely photographed in public, and this fact heated rumors for the years that he was sick or possibly dead. No photographs of Akhundzade, who attended the meeting, which began in Kabul on Thursday, have been released.
Akhundzade is known as a reclusive leader.  In this undated photograph, he was identified by several Taliban officials who declined to be named.

A senior religious figure from the founding generation of the Taliban, Akhundzada was named leader of the Taliban in 2016 after the group’s previous leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan.

He retained the post when the group announced an interim government in September.

Akhundzade ruled out including past administrations in the formation of any future government, though he said he “forgives” them.

“I have forgiven the oppressors of the former regime. I do not hold them accountable for their past actions, if someone has caused them trouble without committing new crimes, I will punish them. However, forgiveness does not mean bringing them into government,” Akhundzade said in an audio recording.

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The message seemed to be at odds with statements made by other members of the Taliban leadership in recent months who have expressed readiness for a more inclusive government to garner international support.

The international community has repeatedly called on the Taliban to expand the ranks of their government and restore the rights of women and girls, who have been denied since the group took power, if they want official recognition. The World Bank has frozen projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars because of this issue.

Women in Afghanistan can no longer work in most sectors and need a male guardian for long-distance travel, and girls are prohibited from returning to secondary school.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, Afghan interim interior minister and co-deputy leader of the Taliban since 2016, told CNN in May that “good news is coming soon” about the Taliban’s yet-unfulfilled promise to allow girls to return to school, but suggested that women protesting the regime’s restrictions on women’s rights stay at home.

During an emergency meeting Friday in Geneva, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that “women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing the biggest and fastest decline in the enjoyment of their rights across the board in decades.”

Speaking to the clergy, Akhundzade reaffirmed his commitment to uphold Sharia law, the legal system of Islam based on the Koran, while expressing his disagreement with the “way of life of unbelievers.”

The Taliban’s harsh interpretation of sharia law when they were last in power led to a host of brutal punishments, including stoning of alleged adulterers, public executions and amputations.