KABUL — The Taliban has finalized decisions on who will run Afghanistan, just days after the last U.S. forces withdrew from the country, with the group’s most prominent officials expected to helm a government unlikely to include any officials from the previous regime.

Taliban deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi said the “decisions have been made,” and that an announcement was imminent.

The movement’s top political leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, is widely expected to be appointed as president. And the group’s shadowy commander of the faithful, Haibatullah Akhundzada, is expected to be named the supreme leader of Afghanistan.

“We have been in consultations with the international community, and we hope they will cooperate with us,” Karimi said.

Without international recognition, Afghanistan’s economy will probably continue to falter, potentially plunging millions more people below the poverty line.

The weapons the Taliban captured from the United States may not be an international threat, but they give the group more ways to control the Afghan population. (Jason Aldag/The Washington Post)

Domestically, the group faces a number of challenges to its power, including holdouts in the country’s north and public demonstrations against the return to an extreme interpretation of Islamic law.

Here’s what to know

  • President Biden has tapped Jack Markell, a former governor of Delaware, to temporarily serve as his point person on resettling Afghan evacuees in the United States, White House officials said Friday.
  • Former vice president Amrullah Saleh said the Taliban had cut phone lines, electricity and access to medical supplies from the Panjshir Valley, the last serious stronghold of resistance against the Taliban.
  • Britain’s foreign secretary said in Qatar that the Kabul airport could soon reopen. Several countries have offered technical and security support to facilitate the resumption of military and civilian flights.

Since taking Kabul last month, Taliban leadership held a number of high-level meetings with the few former Afghan government officials who have remained in Kabul. But Karimi said the talks were aimed only at assuring the men of their security and were not consultations about the country’s future structure.

“We have made our own decisions,” he said about leadership appointments.

Other senior Taliban leaders, such as Sirajuddin Haqqani, chief of the brutal Haqqani network, and Mawlawi Muhammad Yaqoub, a son of the Taliban’s late leader, are also expected to hold influential posts.

Nearly three weeks into the group’s rule of Afghanistan, the Taliban has not been recognized by the international community as the country’s legitimate representative. Most countries have indicated that recognition will only come after a political settlement is reached with those toppled by the militant group.

Western officials, who insist they will not recognize any new government the militants form, acknowledge they will still have to deal with it.

E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday that engaging with Afghanistan’s new rulers would “not mean recognition” and that it all depends on whether the Taliban sticks to its promises, including allowing access for aid deliveries and safe passage out of Kabul for those who wish to leave.

Borrell’s comments echoed Britain’s top diplomat, Dominic Raab, who said it was necessary to “adjust to the new reality.” Despite skepticism toward the Taliban’s assurances that it has changed, even the top U.S. military official has raised the possibility that Washington may work with the Taliban in the fight against the Islamic State.

Much less clear is the role women will play in public life. In the days since the Taliban seized Kabul on Aug. 15, many women have stayed home amid concerns that the group will resume the brutal treatment of women that marked its last rule, between 1996 and 2001. Many women in high-profile positions fled the country during the U.S.-led evacuation effort.

Publicly, the Taliban has promised a more inclusive society and pledged to be more tolerant toward women, although many Afghans remain deeply skeptical of those claims.

“There isn’t a unified view among the Taliban on women’s activities in society and politics,” Nooria Nazhat, a former Afghan government official, told Tolo News. “This is concerning.”

Despite the dangers, dozens of female demonstrators marched toward the office of the governor of Herat, the largest city by population in western Afghanistan, on Thursday to demand the inclusion of women in the upcoming government. There they faced off with Taliban members standing guard. “No government is stable without the support of women,” read one banner held up by participants.

In another rare public display, a group of female activists in Kabul held a small protest on Friday, demanding that their rights be respected. “Education, work, freedom,” one of their signs read. Another called for the new government to include women.

The protesters, gathered outside the presidential palace in Kabul, came face-to-face with Taliban militants. “Rights for women, equality with men,” they yelled. But their chants were met with contempt from a Taliban fighter who hit a photographer and tore up the protest placards, activists said.

He “wanted to shoot at us,” said Hussnia Bakhtiyari, a 28-year-old protester who had worked for the former Afghan government. “Three other Taliban fighters rushed and stopped him. I thought we would all get killed.”

For several days, Taliban fighters have targeted the holdout Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, attacking from several directions and engaging in fierce clashes with resistance forces led by the son of a storied late military commander who fought the Soviet Union and, later, the Taliban. It is the only serious military challenge the Taliban has faced since Kabul and 33 provincial capitals fell in 10 days.

Former vice president Amrullah Saleh, who has said he is in Panjshir, tweeted that the Taliban had cut phone lines and electricity to the valley. The militants also blocked roads to cut off medical supplies, wrote Saleh, who claimed he was the country’s legitimate caretaker last month after former president Ashraf Ghani fled in the face of the Taliban advance.

The Taliban reported Friday that it has taken one of the districts in the valley amid heavy casualties, which was confirmed by a resistance spokesman, suggesting the last holdout’s days could be numbered.

The drought in Afghanistan led to the loss of 40 percent of crops, and experts warned millions of Afghans could soon face starvation. (Reuters)

The Taliban also has inherited a fragile, aid-dependent economy where about 90 percent of the people live below the poverty line. Foreign aid made up much of the Western-backed government’s budget — and that has largely been frozen since the Taliban’s takeover.

The United Nations refugee agency for Afghanistan posted a photo of several trucks Friday, saying they were carrying humanitarian relief aid into Afghanistan through the nation’s Torkham border crossing with Pakistan.

The new regime is hoping to reopen Kabul airport, which will be a significant artery for aid delivery. Western countries are also keen for the airport to resume operations so that vulnerable Afghans can flee.

Several countries have offered technical and security support to help reopen Kabul airport, and a team of Qatari and Turkish technicians flew to Kabul on Wednesday to help reopen the facility, the Associated Press reported.

“We hope in the next 24 or 48 hours to see the opening of humanitarian corridors so humanitarian aid can enter through Kabul airport — and other functioning airports,” Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani, special envoy of the foreign minister of Qatar for counterterrorism and mediation in conflict resolution, told Al Jazeera on Friday.

In one of the first flights to land at Kabul airport since U.S. troops left, a United Arab Emirates plane carrying tons of food and medical supplies arrived in the Afghan capital on Friday, the UAE Foreign Ministry said. A flight carrying a Qatari diplomat also arrived.

Afghanistan’s economy is forecast to contract by 9.7 percent this fiscal year, according to Fitch Solutions. The United Nations has warned that the country is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, as a severe drought and the coronavirus pandemic compound the fallout from nearly two decades of conflict.

In the United States, White House officials said Friday that President Biden tapped former Delaware governor Jack Markell to temporarily serve as his point person on resettling Afghan evacuees in the country.

Sudarsan Raghavan contributed to this report.