Austin: No evidence Taliban being 'inclusive,' says 'I don't look favorably' on wanted terrorist in government

Taliban unveils names of new ‘sinister’ Afghan government leaders

Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin reacts to the formation of the new Afghan government

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says that while the Taliban promised to form an “inclusive” government upon taking control of Afghanistan, there does not appear to be any indication that they are actually doing this.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Kuwait, Austin referenced the Taliban’s claim that they would work toward having an “open, inclusive Islamic government,” unlike what they had when they controlled Afghanistan before U.S. forces landed in the country nearly 20 years ago.

“You know, I think the whole international community was hopeful that they would be inclusive as they kind of said they would be weeks and months ago, but we’ve not seen evidence of that early on,” Austin said.

The Taliban recently announced members of their new government, and not a single woman was included. A Taliban spokesperson on Monday said that positions within the government are now in an “acting capacity” but said that many members of the old guard are part of the new government. 

The government, according to a report by the BBC, will be led by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as deputy. Other appointments include Mullah Yaqoob as acting defense minister and Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi as a second deputy. 

Sarajuddin Haqqani, the new acting interior minister, is the head of the militant group known as the Haqqani Network. The FBI has a $10 million bounty on his head and it is believed he is holding at least one American hostage, The Associated Press reported.

Asked about the Haqqanis’ involvement in the new government, Austin noted that “we don’t get a choice” in who is involved but acknowledged that “certainly these are people that … I don’t look favorably upon[.]”

Those words were mild in comparison to the criticism of the new government from Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said in a BBC interview that the announced officials were “a lineup of thugs and butchers.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.

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