The panic caused by the Taliban’s entry into Kabul sparked scenes of chaos in the Afghan capital. Thousands of citizens, fearing the possibility of being trapped in the clutches of Islamic extremists, try to reach the airport in the vain hope of getting out of the country. At least five people died this Monday morning when the airstrip was invaded. Meanwhile, reports of looting and abuse continue to surface, despite the Taliban’s having reiterated to its fighters that they must respect the property of others.
With commercial flights suspended and the airport taken by the 6,000 soldiers sent by the United States to ensure the departure of its citizens, the rumor (false) emerged that there was no visa requirement for those traveling to Canada. It was the last straw for desperate Afghans to avalanche on the slopes. It was not clear whether the five dead were trampled or shot by the militia. A US official quoted by Reuters admitted that soldiers had fired into the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
The scenes of chaos at the airport contrast with the calm the Taliban claims to reign in the rest of the country. In an interview with Al Jazeera channel, Mohammad Naim, spokesman for the political office of the militia in Doha (Qatar), declared the country’s civil war over. However, their plans are still unclear. The fundamentalist group is faced with the arduous task of moving from being a guerrilla supported by local forces (mainly rural) to becoming an authority that controls and administers an entire country (including the much more complex urban centers). Its 60,000 militiamen ( according to estimates by the West Point Center for Combating Terrorism, they managed to spread over 90% of the territory thanks mainly to the surrender of the Afghan armed forces, as most of its 300,000 members preferred to surrender their weapons rather than fight. But both the internal displacement of civilians and the attempts by many of them to leave the country indicate that the Taliban does not enjoy widespread support.
The movement’s number two, cleric Abulghani Baradar, acknowledged the magnitude of the task in a video released late Sunday. After calling the quick victory over the Afghan government “without comparison,” he said the real test begins now. “It’s about how we serve and secure our people, and ensure their future as good as possible,” he said, surrounded by other Taliban leaders—all Pashtun men. This homogeneity is a poor match for the plurality of Afghan society and is at the root of the distrust that the group motivates. seem to have ruled out forming a transitional government. It is unclear how the transfer of powers takes place, or whether officials in Ashraf Ghani’s administration remain in their posts. In the interview with Al Jazeera, Naim said that the form of the new regime will soon become clear, implying that the group is trying to form a government. “We don’t want to live in isolation,” he said, then defended peaceful international relations.
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But the memory of their dictatorship (1996-2001) makes many Afghans fearful. At that time, Islamists managed to stop the civil war, but they imposed a moral code that condemned Afghans to isolation. His tenure was especially cruel to women (confined to the home and forced to hide their body and face under the burqa on the rare occasions when they could go out) and minorities. Now its leaders are trying to project a more moderate image, but the news coming from the first cities that came under its power, such as Herat and Kandahar, are disheartening. There, reports are that women are being prevented from leaving their jobs and attending universities. Neither do Western countries trust the Taliban. Only Russia and China responded positively to the group’s appeals and kept their embassies open. Most Governments have already started or are preparing the departure of their citizens – something that Sweden has already concluded. While accelerating the withdrawal, 60 countries, including the US and Europeans, issued a statement proclaiming that Afghans “deserve to live in safety and dignity” and asking the new rulers to authorize anyone who wants to leave the country. It is not clear, however, where these people could go, as few can get visas.
In addition, many of the internally displaced people since the start of the Taliban offensive have ended up in Kabul, where they survive precariously in family homes and parks. OCHA (United Nations humanitarian agency) has identified 17,600 individuals in need of assistance, 2,000 of whom were registered in a single day. However, since Sunday, the organization has halted its activity “in view of the uncertainty of the situation in Kabul”.
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