Sat. May 25th, 2024

Hibatullah Akhundzada, the reclusive supreme leader of the Taliban, emerged from obscurity on Wednesday, delivering a rare public speech in which he lashed out at the international community for its condemnation of his regime, according to an Afghan government spokesman.

Akhundzada, who has maintained a low profile since assuming leadership of the Taliban in 2016 and overseeing its return to power following the withdrawal of US forces in 2021, has predominantly governed through decrees, imposing a stringent interpretation of Islam that has isolated Afghanistan on the global stage.

In his 35-minute address, disseminated via audio by a Taliban government spokesperson, Akhundzada accused nations involved in the US-led invasion of continuing to attack Afghanistan through “propaganda” and “malicious tactics,” urging Afghans not to be misled by foreign influences.

While Akhundzada’s whereabouts during the address remained undisclosed, the event reportedly drew thousands of attendees in southern Kandahar province, with tight security measures in place limiting access to the main worship area.

Despite efforts to maintain secrecy around Akhundzada’s public appearances, his message underscored the Taliban’s unwavering commitment to Islamic law and defiance against external pressure to alter their governance approach.

Operating primarily from Kandahar, the Taliban leader has overseen a government that has faced widespread condemnation for imposing strict restrictions on women and girls, leading to a significant decline in foreign aid and exacerbating the country’s humanitarian crisis.

While Kabul’s Taliban administration professes a desire for diplomatic and economic engagement with other nations, it has reiterated its stance on upholding Afghanistan’s sovereignty and demanding respect for its domestic policies, particularly concerning human rights.

Akhundzada’s latest address marks a continuation of his efforts to assert authority and maintain the Taliban’s grip on power amid mounting challenges and international scrutiny, underscoring the complex dynamics shaping Afghanistan’s political landscape under Taliban rule.

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