The Taliban have reportedly chosen a leader of Afghanistan’s new government amid efforts to claim legitimacy in the eyes of international community, donors and investors.
Sky News reported that Mullah Baradar, the head of the Islamist group’s political wing, will take the role as fighting raged in the country’s last province still resisting Taliban rule.
Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai will also take senior positions in the government, sources said.
The developments came as Taliban forces and fighters loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud battled in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley.
Two weeks since the group seized power, Panjshir is the last area holding out against the Taliban, who retook control of the country as US and foreign troops withdrew after 20 years of conflict following the 9/11 attacks on the US.
Several thousand fighters from local militias and remnants of the government’s armed forces have massed in Panjshir under the leadership of Massoud, son of a former Mujahideen commander, since the Taliban took power.
They have been continuing to hold out in the steep valley where attacks from outside are difficult.
Efforts to negotiate a settlement appear to have collapsed, with each side blaming the other for the failure.
Mr Mujahid said the announcement of a new government was a few days away, while Taliban official Ahmadullah Muttaqi said a ceremony was being organised at the presidential palace.
The legitimacy of the government in the eyes of international donors and investors will be crucial for the economy as the country suffers drought and the ravages of a conflict that killed an estimated 240,000 Afghans.
Humanitarian organisations have warned of looming catastrophe and say the economy reliant for years on many millions of dollars of foreign aid is close to collapse.
Large numbers of Afghans were struggling to feed their families amid severe drought well before the Taliban militants seized power and millions may now face starvation with the country isolated and the economy unravelling, aid agencies say.
The Taliban enforced a radical form of Sharia, or Islamic law, when it ruled between 1996 and 2001 but has attempted to present a more moderate face to the world this time, vowing to protect human rights and refrain from reprisals against old enemies.
But the US, the European Union and others have cast doubt on such assurances, saying formal recognition of the new government and the economic aid that would flow from that is contingent on action.