Mullah Muhammad Younas Akhundzada is an ethnic Pashtun Taliban senior leader from Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar.Shafiq Ahmad, “Who's who in Taliban interim government?,” September 9, 2021, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/whos-who-in-taliban-interim-government/2360424. Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, Akhundzada was named minister for development of the Taliban government.“Taliban forms 33-member cabinet in Afghanistan: Full list,” Hindustan Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-forms-33-member-cabinet-in-afghanistan-full-list-101631066722518.html.
The Taliban began its offensive against major Afghan cities on August 6, 2021.Susannah George and Ezzatullah Mehrdad, “Taliban fighters overrun an Afghan provincial capital for the first time since withdrawal of foreign forces,” Washington Post, August 6, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/08/06/afghanistan-taliban-nimruz/. On August 15, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan and thousands of Afghans poured into Kabul’s airport as Taliban fighters entered the city. By August 16, the Taliban laid siege to the presidential palace and took complete control of Kabul, declaring the war in Afghanistan had ended.Rahim Faiez, and Joseph Krauss, “Taliban sweep across Afghanistan’s south; take 4 more cities,” Associated Press, August 13, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-taliban-c6c8d4a41c554f36031a8131538d1402. The last U.S. troops flew out of Kabul on August 30, 2021, ending a 20-year war that took the lives of 2,500 American troops and 240,000 Afghans and cost about $2 trillion.Peter Baker, “All in or All Out? Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan.,” New York Times, September 1, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/28/us/politics/trump-taliban-biden-afghanistan.html; Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold, “Last U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan After Nearly 20 Years,” Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/last-u-s-troops-leave-afghanistan-after-nearly-20-years-11630355853. The Taliban has claimed that it would take on a more “moderate” approach in their ruling of the country, and that women are allowed to have roles in public life in observance of “Islamic law.”“Factbox: Taliban seek to present a moderate face as they take control in Afghanistan,” Reuters, August 15, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taliban-seek-present-moderate-face-they-take-control-afghanistan-2021-08-15/.
On September 7, 2021, the Taliban announced the official appointments within their caretaker government. Akhundzada was appointed minister for development.“Taliban forms 33-member cabinet in Afghanistan: Full list,” Hindustan Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/taliban-forms-33-member-cabinet-in-afghanistan-full-list-101631066722518.html. The government is exclusively male, with many positions filled with veterans from their hardline movement in the early nineties.Matthieu Aikins and Jim Huylebroek, “Taliban Appoint Stalwarts to Top Government Posts,” New York Times, September 7, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/07/world/asia/taliban-women-protest-kabul-afghanistan.html; Kathy Gannon, “Taliban form all-male Afghan government of old guard members,” Associated Press, September 8, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/middle-east-pakistan-afghanistan-arrests-islamabad-d50b1b490d27d32eb20cc11b77c12c87.