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Taliban name acting head of central bank as economic turmoil grows

by Reuters
Monday, 23 August 2021 16:41 GMT

(Adds comments from Afghan banker)

Aug 23 (Reuters) - The Taliban have appointed an acting head of Afghanistan's central bank to help ease growing economic turmoil, more than a week after the Islamist movement seized the capital Kabul, a statement said on Monday.

Haji Mohammad Idris was named as acting governor of the bank to help bring order to a war-crippled economy, which has been adrift for more than a week with banks closed and many government offices empty.

He was expected to help organise institutions and address the economic issues facing the population, a statement from Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Afghanistan's lenders would likely require central bank support to manage afghani and U.S. dollar liquidity once they reopen, said a senior Afghan banker, who asked to remain anonymous.

"If this uncertainty remains, then customers will withdraw more funds and banks would need bigger support from (the central bank)," the banker said, referring to withdrawals in the immediate run-up to the bank closures.

The appointment, which came as Iran resumed fuel exports https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-resumes-fuel-exports-afghanistan-after-taliban-request-union-says-2021-08-23 to Afghanistan, comes amid increasingly acute economic problems https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/rising-prices-shuttered-banks-add-misery-kabul-2021-08-22, with government workers unpaid, many businesses closed and growing pressure on prices of staples including food and fuel.

With many senior officials and others associated with the Western-backed government in hiding or exile, the Taliban have been trying to persuade specialists and technical experts to return to work to get the economy back on its feet.

A senior Taliban official said Idris, from the northern province of Jawzjan, had long experience working on financial issues with the previous leader of the movement, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed in a drone strike in 2016.

While Idris had no public profile outside the movement and no formal financial training or higher education, he was head of the movement's finance section and respected for his expertise, a senior Taliban leader said.

"There are many people who were unknown to the world but they held key positions and had great contributions. Haji Idris is among them," he said. "I believe he has not even studied religious studies but was expert in financial matters." (Reporting by Jibran Ahmad, writing by James Mackenzie, additional reporting by Tom Arnold; Editing by Alex Richardson, Nick Macfie and David Clarke)

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