Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi / AP
For the first time in nearly two decades, Afghans woke up Tuesday morning in a country absent from US forces, after the last US soldier boarded the last military transport to leave the country just before midnight.
But the country’s future is uncertain. Some welcome the new Taliban leadership, while many others remember the excesses of their hardline ideology – one that denies women access to education and employment, and delivers swift justice to anyone who violates it. harsh interpretation of Islamic law by the group.
Taliban celebrate victory
Hours after the departure from the United States which ended the United States’ longest war, celebratory gunfire erupted across the country as Taliban fighters took control of Hamid Karzai International Airport – a powerful symbol of Washington’s power.
The latest flight from Kabul, which met the August 31 deadline set by the Biden administration for the complete withdrawal of US forces, has been described as a historic moment by the Taliban.
“Congratulations to Afghanistan,” group spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters at a press conference at the airport. “This victory belongs to all of us.”
“We have liberated our country from a great power,” he said after the departure of the last American C-17 and after Taliban fighters dressed in tactical gear and sporting guns entered in the airport in trucks.
The Taliban’s rapid advance on Kabul as US-trained Afghan security forces collapsed forced a chaotic and deadly final sortie, with US forces at the airport scrambling to evacuate US soldiers and contractors , as well as tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to leave the country.
A chaotic American withdrawal
Last week, a suicide bomber who slipped into the crowds of people thronging outside the airport killed 13 US servicemen and nearly 200 Afghans. Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility. In retaliation, the United States launched a drone strike on individuals they believed were responsible for planning the attack. In a subsequent drone strike, the United States targeted a vehicle full of explosives. Ten Afghan civilians, including seven children, were also reportedly killed.
Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag
Despite the deep concern of the international community and many Afghans themselves, the Taliban have attempted to allay fears that their regime is marked by the same level of brutality that became the hallmark of their previous stint in power in 1996. until they are driven out. during the 2001 American invasion.
Fearing retaliation from the Taliban after the United States left, Washington airlifted more than 123,000 people out of the country, including about 6,000 US citizens, according to the State Department. Many Afghans who left had helped American forces during the 20 years of occupation.
Speaking to NPR earlier this month, a Taliban spokesperson insisted no retaliation would take place
“No, there is no kind of retaliation or revenge against these people who work with foreign troops,” said Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban in Qatar. Morning edition host Steve Inskeep.
“[We] announced a general amnesty, they can lead their normal lives and they also contribute to the reconstruction of the country, to the economic prosperity of the people, to their own prosperity, “he said.
But many are skeptical.
So far, the actions of the Taliban have spoken louder than their words
In areas of the country that came under their control before the Taliban’s final assault on the capital, reports have pointed to the same kind of brutality that made the movement infamous and turned the country into a pariah state.
In an area north of Kabul, folk singer Fawad Andarabi was shot dead by the Taliban just days after raiding his home, according to the singer’s family.
Among their edicts during the last time in power, the Taliban banned music as un-Islamic.
Previously, a popular comedian in the south of the country, Nazar Mohammad, better known as Khasha Zwan, was seen in a video being beaten by Taliban fighters. He was then shot dead. Taliban spokesman Mujahid promised that the two men seen in the video attacking Khasha Zwan would stand trial.
The United States is ready to lead diplomatically
With the United States’ exit from Afghanistan complete, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington was ready to be “relentless” in its efforts to help individuals escape the country even without boots on the ground.
“A new chapter in US engagement with Afghanistan has begun,” Blinken said in a statement. “This is the one we will lead in with our diplomacy.”
“We will continue our tireless efforts to help Americans, foreign nationals and Afghans leave Afghanistan if they wish,” he said.
“As of today, we have suspended our diplomatic presence in Kabul and transferred our operations to Doha, Qatar, which will soon be officially notified to Congress,” he said. “Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, this was a prudent step to take.”
It is still unclear who will become the ruler of Afghanistan, but many believe that the day-to-day administration of the government will be handled by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Baradar, who is technically number two after Supreme Commander Haibatullah Akhundzada, has been the public face of the Taliban in recent years. He helped negotiate the US withdrawal from Doha with then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Not much is known about Baradar, but he is a veteran of the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and also against American forces after the 2001 invasion.