Taliban prepare to set up new Afghan government as U.S. evacuation nears end

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The Taliban said on Saturday they would announce a new government for Afghanistan in the coming week and expected the economic turbulence and sharp currency falls that followed their take-over of the city two weeks ago to subside quickly.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the movement's main spokesman, made the comments to Reuters as the U.S. military winds down its mission to evacuate U.S. citizens and vulnerable Afghans and withdraw troops from Kabul airport ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden.

Mujahid condemned an overnight U.S. drone strike against Islamic State militants following Thursday's suicide attack near the airport as a "clear attack on Afghan territory".

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul / AP Newsroom)

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But he appealed to the United States and other Western nations to maintain diplomatic relations after their withdrawal, which he expected would be completed "very soon".

There is mounting frustration in Kabul at the severe economic hardship caused by a plummeting currency and rising food prices, with banks still shuttered two weeks after the fall of the city to the Taliban.

Mujahid said officials had already been appointed to run key institutions including the ministries of public health and education and the central bank.

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United Nations officials have warned that Afghanistan faces a humanitarian catastrophe, with large parts of the country suffering from extreme drought conditions.

The economy, shattered after four decades of war, also faces the loss of billions of dollars in foreign aid, following the withdrawal of Western embassies from the country.

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Mujahid said the economic problems being experienced would be eased once the new government was in place.

"The fall of Afghani against foreign currency is temporary and it is because of the situation that suddenly changed, it will come back to normal once the government system starts functioning," he said.

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