The reclusive leader told the conference that Afghanistan “cannot develop without being independent”, according to the state-run Bakhtar news agency.
“Thank God we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) shouldn’t give us orders, it’s our system, and we have our own decisions,” Akhundzada added.
The speed of the takeover, just weeks after the start of the US troop withdrawal, took the world by surprise and led to the dissolution of the foreign-backed government of Ashraf Ghani, who had fled the country.
Akhundzada made the comments in an audio recording during a three-day religious gathering with 3,000 participants, all of them male, according to state media. The meeting was not open to the media, but CNN listened to the recording of Akhundzada’s speech.
A senior religious figure from the Taliban’s founding generation, Akhundzada, was named leader of the Taliban in 2016 after the group’s former leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan.
He retained the post when the group announced its caretaker government in September.
Akhundzada ruled out including past administrations in the formation of any future government, although he said he had “forgiven” them.
“I have forgiven the oppressors of the old regime. I do not hold them responsible for their past actions, if someone creates trouble for them without committing new crimes, I will punish them. However, forgiving does not mean making them enter the government,” Akhundzada said in the audio recording.
The message appeared to contradict statements made by other members of the Taliban leadership in recent months, who have expressed openness to a more inclusive government in order to gain international support.
The international community has repeatedly called on the Taliban to expand the ranks of its government and restore the rights of women and girls, who have been stripped since the group took power, if they are to be officially recognized. The World Bank has frozen projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the issue.
At an urgent meeting in Geneva on Friday, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned that “women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing the biggest and fastest setback in the enjoyment of their rights at all levels for decades”.
Addressing clerics, Akhundzada reaffirmed his commitment to the application of Sharia, the legal system of Islam derived from the Koran, while expressing his opposition to the “non-believers’ way of life”.
The Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Sharia when in power led to dozens of violent punishments, including the stoning of suspected adulterers, public executions and amputations.