The Taliban jihadist organization’s designated “prime minister” of Afghanistan, Mohammad Hassan Akhund, delivered a bizarre audio address to the nation on Sunday night declaring gratitude to the Taliban “obligatory” and claiming that widespread poverty, including malnutrition and famine fears, are “a great test from Allah.”
Akhund also insisted the Taliban bore no responsibility for widespread poverty in the country despite fighting the Afghan War for two decades in a quest to return to power. That quest succeeded in August after President Joe Biden abruptly withdrew American forces from the country after announcing an extension to the 20-year war.
In response to Taliban terrorists seizing the country on August 15, nearly every major global financial institution froze Afghanistan’s government assets. Taliban leaders claim this move – not the Taliban’s poor government management or limitations on many employees doing their jobs – have resulted in what has become one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid published the full text of the address, reportedly broadcast on Afghanistan’s National Radio and Television, through his Twitter account. The speech was Akhund’s first message to the public since being appointed acting “prime minister,” according to Afghanistan’s Khaama Press.
“Dear people, twenty years of history and a great test from Allah have passed over you,” Akhund asserted. “You and your young mujahideen have endured this 20-year jihad with great hardships, prisons, raids and sacrifices. The mujahideen shielded themselves against everything, as a result of which Allah the Exalted bestowed this great blessing on them.”
“I say to all dear people that now you and I are facing another test,” he continued. “We must all cry out to our Lord to bring down upon us the rain of mercy so that the drought may be eradicated from our country and our existing problems may be solved.”
Akhund described famine as a “great test of Allah” that has arrived because “the servants have begun to rebel against Allah.”
“May Allah Almighty help us to cry out to Allah Almighty and solve our problems,” he continued.
Akhund described gratitude to the Taliban, presumably for establishing radical jihadist rule in the country, as “obligatory” and insisted the Taliban have no responsibility for any problems in the country.
“There are cries of unemployment and, with the advent of the Emirate [the Taliban rule], prices have skyrocketed … would it be fair to associate this price hike with the Emirate?” he asked. “Did the famine come with the Emirate or did it already exist in this country?”
“God forbid that you should be suspicious of such a blessed system, security and government, or that a useless word should be uttered about it,” Akhund warned, “God Almighty will be displeased with you.”
“If we do not give thanks for this blessing, Allah will punish us severely,” he concluded.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) newspaper The National reported many Afghans were outraged by the demand to absolve the Taliban of association with the country’s problems and Akhund’s lack of actionable tasks in his messaging – he notably did not mention anything the Taliban was actually doing to alleviate famine concerns.
“How can a leader say something like that to the face of the people who haven’t had anything for days,” an Afghan citizen told The National under a pseudonym, noting that the Taliban had banned him from working, keeping him from having money to eat.
“There are nights we sleep without eating. We can’t afford milk for the babies,” the man said said. “Of course, they can’t provide us with food. But if they want to be our leaders, how can they refuse responsibility for the unemployment, famine, and suffering of Afghans?”
The National noted that the United Nations estimates that over 22 million Afghans are facing “food insecurity,” an umbrella term for anything from not being able to secure three meals a day to outright famine. The Taliban itself, through the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, announced last week that it had estimated that 1 million children were actively suffering malnutrition.
The lack of available food and even more elusive cash to buy it has triggered a wave of sales of young girls to older men in marriage. International media have documented a significant increase in the sale of girls as young as 18 months old to either young boys – to become grooms when they come of age – or old men seeking child brides. While child brides were common in Afghanistan before the Taliban’s rule, cases of families stating they felt their options were selling their daughters of having all of their children starve to death have reportedly increased. The rise in these cases has resulted in confusion for Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials processing Afghans fleeing the Taliban who have reported encountering old men claiming young girls as “wives.”
Some ashamed parents have insisted that they did not sell their daughters, but temporarily pawn them as a way of generating quick cash to buy food.
The Taliban has aggressively blamed the international community for economic woes in Afghanistan, as institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have refused to allow the terrorists to access Afghan government assets. International banks holding Afghan assets have done the same, all in response to the Taliban’s decades-long record of terrorism and human rights atrocities, particularly against women and girls.
This month, the Taliban attempted a last-ditch effort to access international funds – and plead against sanctions – by sending a letter to the U.S. Congress insisting the terrorist group seeks friendly relations with Washington and will not misuse the funds for terrorism.
“It is quite surprising that with the announcement of the new government, the administration of the United States of America slapped sanctions on the assets of our Central Bank,” the letter read. “This goes against our expectations as well as the Doha Agreement. The Afghan people, after attaining personal security following decades of war, have a right to financial security.”
The Taliban is also reportedly cooperating with the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) to allow the agency to feed Afghan people. The United Nations has called for funding the Taliban despite reports that Taliban jihadists have physically assaulted U.N. workers.