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Shahabuddin Delawar (right), the Taliban's mining and petroleum minister, has been accused of nepotism after his son was appointed as the extremist group's ambassador to Uzbekistan.
Shahabuddin Delawar (right), the Taliban's mining and petroleum minister, has been accused of nepotism after his son was appointed as the extremist group's ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

Shahabuddin Delawar, the Taliban's mining and petroleum minister, has been accused of nepotism after his son was appointed as the extremist group's ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Maghfoorullah Shahab, Delawar's younger son, took over Afghanistan's embassy in Tashkent on February 4.

Delawar's elder son, Rohullah Shahab, is already serving as a senior bureaucrat in the office of a Taliban deputy prime minister. Meanwhile, his son-in-law, Shamsuddin Ahmadi, holds a senior position in the Kabul municipality.

Delawar has come under rare criticism from Taliban members, some of whom have said his son's appointment as ambassador was a brazen display of political nepotism.

Why It's Important: The allegations against Delawar are a blow to the Taliban's claims that its hard-line government is free of nepotism and corruption.

In a decree issued last year, Taliban chief Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada told "all officials in the ministries, departments, and independent authorities that no one is allowed to appoint family members or relatives in government positions."

Delawar is not alone in appearing to defy Akhundzada's orders.

Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani's uncle, Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani, is the refugee affairs minister. Members of the extended Haqqani family also hold important posts in the intelligence service and the administration in southeastern Khost Province.

Taliban founder Mullah Omar's son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqub, is the powerful defense minister. Yaqub's uncle, Mullah Manan Omari, is the labor and social affairs minister.

What's Next: Many officials from the fallen Western-backed Afghan government were accused of using their positions to grant favors to their relatives.

It appears that allegations of political nepotism are also likely to dog Taliban officials.

Taliban leaders appear likely to use their positions to enrich themselves and consolidate their power.

What To Keep An Eye On

Global rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) has urged the Taliban to release two Afghan education activists.

Samira Hamidi, a South Asia campaigner for AI, on February 8 urged the Taliban to release Ahmad Fahim Azimi and Sediqullah Afghan.

"They must be released immediately," she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, adding that despite a lack of evidence against the two, a Taliban judge sentenced them to prison in an "unfair trial."

Azimi and Afghan are known for campaigning for girls' education, which the Taliban has severely restricted.

They were arrested in October by the Taliban's intelligence service and now languish in the notorious Pul-e Charkhi prison in Kabul.

Their arrests have been widely condemned by rights activists.

Why It's Important: The arrests of Azimi and Afghan are part of the Taliban's wider crackdown on dissent.

Since its return to power, the Taliban has detained and jailed scores of journalists and activists for publicly opposing its repressive policies.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at azadi.english@rferl.org

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday. You can always reach us at azadi.english@rferl.org

China’s president on January 30 became the first head of state to formally accept the credentials of a Taliban-appointed ambassador.
China’s president on January 30 became the first head of state to formally accept the credentials of a Taliban-appointed ambassador.

Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.

I'm Abubakar Siddique, senior correspondent at RFE/RL's Radio Azadi. Here's what I've been tracking and what I'm keeping an eye on in the days ahead.

The Key Issue

Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 30 formally accepted the credentials of the Taliban-appointed ambassador, becoming the first head of state to do so.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin clarified that the move did not mean Beijing officially recognized the Taliban government.

“Diplomatic recognition of the Afghan government will come naturally as the concerns of various parties are effectively addressed,” he said.

The Taliban, however, celebrated the move as a major diplomatic victory.

"China understands what the rest of the world needs to understand," chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, urging other countries to expand bilateral relations with his government.

Why It's Important: China’s move is a boost to the Taliban-led government, which has not been recognized by any country since the extremist group seized power in 2021.

Beijing’s expanding diplomatic ties with the Taliban government could prompt other countries in the region, including Iran and Russia, to follow suit.

Ibraheem Bahiss, an Afghanistan expert at the International Crisis Group, said Beijing’s decision suggested that the Taliban was making headway in its strategy to gain official recognition from regional countries.

Countries in the region are growing “more and more skeptical about the Western consensus that the Taliban should stay confined to pariah status on the world stage,” he wrote.

Najib Azad, an exiled former Afghan government official, said that without full diplomatic recognition from all five permanent United Nations Security Council members, Beijing’s move was meaningless.

“Until that time, it is only a PR opportunity for the Taliban to claim success,” he told Radio Azadi.

What's Next: A planned UN conference on Afghanistan later this month is expected to debate the question of Taliban recognition and engagement with the group.

The hard-line Islamist group faces major hurdles in gaining international recognition and legitimacy.

Many nations have tied recognition to the Taliban establishing an inclusive government, ensuring women’s rights, and breaking ties with extremist groups.

But the Taliban has refused to share power, severely eroded women's freedoms, and maintained links with extremist groups, according to experts.

What To Keep An Eye On

Afghanistan dropped 12 places in Transparency International’s global corruption rankings.

Afghanistan was ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the 2023 Corruption Perception Index. Last year, the same index ranked it 150th. In 2021, under the Western-backed Afghan government, the country ranked 176th.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, attempted to downplay Afghanistan’s significant drop in the rankings.

“The drop in ranking doesn’t mean that corruption has increased in Afghanistan,” he said. “But it is possible that other countries have become more transparent.”

Why It's Important: The ranking is a blow for the Taliban government, which has touted its fight against corruption as one of its major achievements.

But Afghanistan’s declining score suggests that corruption, which was endemic under the previous government, remains pervasive.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at azadi.english@rferl.org.

Until next time,

Abubakar Siddique

If you enjoyed this briefing and don't want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday. You can always reach us at azadi.english@rferl.org.

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Radio Azadi is RFE/RL's Dari- and Pashto-language public service news outlet for Afghanistan. Every Friday, in our newsletter, Azadi Briefing, one of our journalists will share their analysis of the week’s most important issues and explain why they matter.

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