The Taliban is due to form a government within days, facing the enormous challenge of shifting gears from insurgent group to governing power, days after the United States fully withdrew its troops and ended two decades of war.

It comes as its fighters were battling forces in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, which had been holding out against the Taliban's takeover of the rest of the country. The Taliban claimed this evening that it had seized Panjshir, although a resistance leader denied it had fallen.

The new government's most immediate priority will be to avert the collapse of an economy grappling with drought and the ravages of a 20-year conflict that killed around 240,000 Afghans before US forces completed their pullout on 30 August.

At stake is whether the Taliban can govern a country facing economic collapse, a humanitarian disaster and threats to security and stability from rival jihadist groups, including a local offshoot of so-called Islamic State.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who heads the Taliban's political office, will be joined by Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, the son of late Taliban co-founder Mullah Omar, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, in senior positions in the government, sources said.

"All the top leaders have arrived in Kabul, where preparations are in final stages to announce the new government," a Taliban official said.

Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban's supreme religious leader, will focus on religious matters and governance within the framework of Islam, another source said.

The Taliban, which seized Kabul on 15 August after sweeping across most of the country, has faced resistance in the Panjshir Valley, where there have been reports of heavy fighting and casualties.

Several thousand fighters of regional militias and remnants of the government's armed forces have massed in the rugged valley under the leadership of Ahmad Massoud, the son of former Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Efforts to negotiate a settlement appear to have broken down, with each side blaming the other for the failure.

Taliban forces stand guard as people celebrate the withdrawal of US forces in Kandahar

While the Taliban has spoken of its desire to form a consensus government, a source close to the militant movement said the interim government now being formed would consist solely of Taliban members.

It would comprise 25 ministries, with a consultative council, or shura, of 12 Muslim scholars, the source added.

Also being planned within six to eight months is a loya jirga, or grand assembly, bringing together elders and representatives across Afghan society to discuss a constitution and the structure of the future government, the source said.

All the sources expected the interim government's cabinet to be finalised soon but differed over exactly when, with some saying it would be settled later today while others felt it would take until the middle of next week.

Qatar hopes for Afghan airport aid corridors within 48 hours

Qatar hopes to see the establishment of humanitarian aid corridors at Afghan airports within 48 hours, Doha's envoy to Afghanistan told the Al Jazeera broadcaster today.

The Gulf nation has worked with the Taliban to quickly reopen Kabul's airport, whose closure since the departure of US troops threatens major strategic and humanitarian challenges.

"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 al-Qahtani told the Qatari channel from Afghanistan.

A jet from the Gulf country was the first foreign aircraft to land in the Afghan capital on Wednesday since frenzied evacuations ended a day earlier with the American withdrawal.

A flight from Doha then landed in Kabul on Thursday, carrying experts who were to examine security and operational aspects pertaining to the airport, according to a source close to the matter.

Doha, a major transit point for Afghan refugees, has said it was working hard to swiftly resume operations.

On humanitarian aid, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday the bloc would look to step up its help for the Afghan people but would judge the authorities "according to the access they provide".

Humanitarian groups warn of Afghan catastrophe

The government's legitimacy in the eyes of international donors and investors will be crucial. Humanitarian groups have warned of impending catastrophe and the economy, reliant for years on millions of dollars of foreign aid, is near collapse.

But Kabul airport has been closed since the Taliban takeover due to a lack of air traffic control. The reopening of the airport will be key to any aid lifeline.

Well before the Taliban took power, many Afghans were struggling to feed their families amid severe drought and millions could now face starvation, aid agencies say.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has no plans to release billions in Afghan gold, investments and foreign currency reserves parked in the United States that it froze after the Taliban's takeover.

In a positive development, a senior executive of Western Union said the company was resuming money-transfer services to Afghanistan in line with a US push to keep up humanitarian work.

An armed Taliban fighter stands next to a religious leader during Friday prayers at a Kabul mosque

The Taliban enforced a radical form of sharia, or Islamic law, in particular oppressing women, when it ruled from 1996 to 2001.

This time around, the movement has tried to present a more conciliatory face to the world, promising to protect human rights and refrain from reprisals against old enemies.

The US, European Union and others have cast doubt on such assurances, and many Afghans, especially women and those with education or links to the former government or Western coalition forces, now fear for their lives.

They include Afghanistan's 250 women judges, with men they once jailed now freed by the Taliban to hunt them down.

While some women judges were able to flee in recent weeks, most were left behind and are still trying to get out, said judges and activists working around the clock to help them escape.

In another sign of shock and panic, members of Afghanistan's renowned all-female orchestra fled abroad or into hiding, smashing instruments and burning documents to avoid retribution by the Taliban, which banned music during its previous rule.

Western powers and others say formal recognition of the Taliban government, and a resulting flow of economic aid, will depend on action to safeguard human rights, the rule of law and the media, not just words.

"In order to support the Afghan population, we will have to engage with the new government in Afghanistan, which doesn't mean recognition. It's an operational engagement," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference.

The Taliban has promised safe passage for any foreigners or Afghans left behind by the huge airlift that ended when US troops withdrew ahead of a 31 August deadline.

But, with Kabul airport still closed, many are seeking to flee over land.

Thousands of Afghans also wait in "transit hubs" in third countries.

33 Afghan citizens arrive in Ireland

Thirty-three Afghan citizens have arrived in Ireland under the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) since the Taliban seized power last month.

The number of refugees that Ireland has committed to taking under the scheme has risen to 290.

The first of the Afghan citizens - a group of around ten - arrived on Monday 23 August.

A statement from the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth said that 33 have now "made their way safely to Ireland and are beginning the process of rebuilding their lives with the assistance of staff from the IRPP".

The statement also said that "more people granted status in Ireland have left Afghanistan by a number of routes and are currently making their way to Ireland".

Last week, Minister Roderic O'Gorman told RTÉ News that most of the refugees were still in Afghanistan, and that Ireland was working "to bring as many over as quickly as possible".

Additional reporting Laura Fletcher