Taliban chief Hibatullah Akhundzada in Afghanistan’s Kandahar city: spokesman

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KABUL (AFP/Web Desk) – The Taliban’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada – who has never made a public appearance – is in Afghanistan, deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi said Sunday.

“He is present in Kandahar. He has been living there from the very beginning,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

“I can confirm that he is in Kandahar. He will soon appear in public,” Karimi told AFP.

According to the sources, the Taliban leadership is holding consultations for the establishment of political system in Afghanistan. Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada’ presence in Kandahar has also been reported. Former Afghanistan vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum and former Balkh governor Atta Muhammad Nur have announced the formation of a new coalition with the Taliban for talks.

The reports also said that the consultations are underway for the political system in Afghanistan, at the moment the top leadership of the Taliban is joining their heads together. According to Afghan media, Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada is present in Kandahar province from four days, where he is meeting with the Taliban leadership.

According to Tolo News, Mullah Hibatullah has left Kandahar province after completing the consultation.

The Taliban said on Saturday they were preparing a new cabinet as the US evacuation nears its end and they expected that sharp currency falls and economic turmoil following their takeover of Kabul two weeks ago would subside.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the movement’s main spokesman, made the comments to Reuters as the US military winds down its mission to evacuate US citizens and vulnerable Afghans and withdraw troops from Kabul airport ahead of the Aug 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden.

Mujahid condemned an overnight US drone strike against Islamic State militants following Thursday’s suicide attack near the airport as a “clear attack on Afghan territory”.

But he appealed to the United States and other Western nations to maintain diplomatic relations after their withdrawal, which he expected would be completed “very soon”.

The exact timing of the formation of a new cabinet remained unclear. Reuters originally quoted Mujahid as saying the announcement would be made in the coming week, but in a voice message later he said the makeup of the new cabinet would be cleared “in one or two weeks”.

Responding to a question about whether any women would be included in the new cabinet, he said this would be a matter for the leadership to decide and he could not anticipate what their decision would be.

There is mounting frustration in Kabul at the severe economic hardship caused by a plummeting currency and rising food prices, with banks still shuttered two weeks after the fall of the city to the Taliban.

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