Mohammad Hasan Akhund, the senior Taliban leader named acting prime minister in Afghanistan, urged Afghans who worked with the U.S. and had fled to return to the country and assured their safety upon return.
“We have suffered huge losses in money and lives for this historic moment in the history of Afghanistan,” he told Al Jazeera in an interview Wednesday. “The stage of bloodshed, killing and contempt for people in Afghanistan has ended, and we have paid dearly for this.”
The Taliban have attempted to present themselves– at least officially– as a more moderate group since taking control of the country. But there have been reports from the country that have contradicted these claims. The Taliban’s selections for its newly appointed government have rankled Western countries, women have not been given positions and the majority are Pashtun. The Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the terror group known as the Haqqani network, was named interim interior minister. The FBI has a $10 million bounty on his head and it is believed that he is holding at least one American hostage. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has been one of the most vocal critics of the Taliban’s interim government and called it a “lineup of thugs and butchers.”
Akhund said in the interview that he will “guarantee” the safety of those who worked with the U.S. and reiterated that the Taliban would grant them amnesty.
Asfandyar Mir, an analyst at the U.S. Institute for Peace, told Reuters that Akhund is not a religious scholar and “appears to be more of a political person.”
“His main claim to power is that he had a very senior role pre-9/11,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report