More than 4,500 clerics and elders who attended the gathering renewed their allegiance and loyalty to the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada.
An assembly of clerics and tribal elders in the Afghan capital has ended with pledges of support for the Taliban and calls on the international community to recognise the country's Taliban-led government.
The Taliban, who took over the country last August, touted the Kabul gathering that concluded on Saturday as a forum to hear a range of voices on issues facing Afghanistan.
Media were barred from the men-only gathering, although speeches were broadcast on state radio and television.
According to Mujib-ul Rahman Ansari, a cleric who attended the gathering, an 11-point statement urges countries in the region and the world, the United Nations, Islamic organisations and others to recognise a Taliban-led Afghanistan, remove all sanctions imposed since the Taliban takeover and unfreeze Afghan assets abroad.
Ansari said more than 4,500 clerics and elders who attended renewed their allegiance and loyalty to the Taliban’s supreme leader and spiritual chief, Hibatullah Akhundzada.
On the agenda
In a surprise development, the reclusive Akhundzada came to Kabul from his base in southern Kandahar province and addressed the gathering on Friday.
It was believed to be his first visit to the Afghan capital since the Taliban seized power. In his hour-long speech, Akhundzada called the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan a “victory for the Muslim world”.
His appearance added symbolic heft to the gathering. The Taliban is under international pressure to be more inclusive as they struggle with Afghanistan’s humanitarian crises.
The Afghan economy has plunged into crisis as Western governments have withdrawn funding and strictly enforced sanctions, saying the Taliban government needs to change course on human rights, especially those of women.
In speeches broadcast on state-run television, some participants brought up girls' and women's education at the gathering.
The Taliban's deputy leader and interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, said at the event on Friday that the world had demanded an inclusive government and education and these issues would take time.
The final declaration made no mention of girls' schooling, but called on the government to pay “special attention and to ensure justice, religious and modern education, health, agriculture, industry, the rights of minorities, children, women and the entire nation, according to Islamic holy law".
The final statement also said the defence of Afghanistan was obligatory and that the Daesh terrorist group, which has said it was behind several attacks in the country, was illegal.
It said it would not interfere with neighbouring countries and they should not interfere in Afghanistan.