The Islamic fundamentalist group Taliban began forming the new government in Afghanistan, after overthrowing President Ashraf Ghani in a dizzying offensive that culminated with the fall of Kabul on Sunday (15).
The movement has received hazy support in the West, despite signs that the process may not be as straightforward as selling off the Taliban, as demonstrated by the deaths of three people protesting the group in the city of Jalalabad on Wednesday. (18).
After speaking out and saying he shouldn’t recognize the Taliban as a government, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has changed his tone.
“We will judge this regime on the basis of the choices it makes, and on its actions, not its words, its attitude towards terrorism, crime and drugs, as well as humanitarian access and the right of girls to receive education. education, “he said on Wednesday. , while being criticized by the opposition in Parliament.
London was the first partner in the 2001 US invasion, which ousted the Taliban from power for its support for the Al-Qaeda network, which carried out the 9/11 attacks. About 450 Britons died in the 20 Years War, compared to over 160,000 Afghans.
The change in tone reflects promises made by the Taliban in a series of interviews, including with an Afghan broadcaster Tolo TV.
The group tries to be evolved and more distant from the aberrant regime which led it from 1996 to 2001, after having won the Afghan civil war out of the rubble of the Soviet occupation of 1979-1989.
Since the occupation of Kabul, the Taliban have said they will respect women, who were invisible and oppressed beings in their government, the press, the old enemies. Everything, and here’s the cat’s jump, from a sharia point of view, Islamic law.
In its first incarnation, the religious legal body was interpreted in a deviant and literal way, generating massacres, draconian punishments and the suppression of rights. Men had to grow beards, the burka (traditional Pashtun dress, the Taliban ethnic group) was compulsory.
Regarding freedom of expression or dissent, it is clear that it will not be unlimited. Take a purist example that is an ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia – the regime killed critical journalist for the Islamic monarchy Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, for example.
In a hitherto unthinkable move, on Wednesday two prominent politicians of the Western occupation period, former President Hamid Karzai and former Chancellor Abdullah Abdullah, met with one of the main leaders of the Kandahar region, Taliban Anas Haqqani.
His last name says it all: he is a member of the Haqqani Network, one of the bloodiest terrorist groups to have operated against Western forces and the Afghan government in those two decades.
He was a rival to the Taliban, but he eventually joined the joint effort against what he called Western puppets in Kabul – Karzai and Abdullah included.
Such a meeting is encouraging, and it can subsidize the relative optimism of Westerners.
“We have to be patient and give them space to form a government and show their credentials. This may be a different Taliban than people remember from the 1990s,” the chief said. British Armed Forces Staff Nick Carter at the BBC.
This was reinforced by a statement from the group to Reuters, that all leaders who have spent decades in hiding will show themselves to the world. One of them, also a public figure living in Doha, Taliban number 2 Abdul Ghani Baradar, returned to Kandahar on Tuesday (17).
Originally, the Taliban were a subnational group rooted in the majority Pashtun ethnic group, and their ideals of territorial conquest and sovereignty did not differ much from those of their violent adversaries.
They were protecting al-Qaeda because of the strict code of Pashtun tribal hospitality, “melmestia”, which prevented the handing over of a guest to their enemies. With September 11, the United States demanded the surrender of Osama bin Laden and his friends, which was denied, and the rest is history.
Until then, the West tolerated and even courted the medieval regime the group was putting in place, given that there was relative stability based on the terror of the population.
Is it possible that this will repeat itself? Times have changed, the exposure of the Taliban’s crimes has created a new devil for Westerners and human rights are not negotiable in the public arena. Behind the scenes, however, the story is different and the ballet of speeches that complement the Taliban and people like Boris may indicate some accommodation.
What moderation does not mean, of course. Despite all the rumors that it will now be different, reports abound of quintessentially Taliban practices in towns the group recently occupied.
One of the most symbolic emerged on Wednesday, with the toppling of a statue of Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari in Bamiyan, a city infamous when the Taliban blew up two gigantic stone-carved Buddhas in 2000.
The Hazaras, Shiites in opposition to the purist Sunism of the Taliban, are one of the minorities who suffered the most during the first Taliban government. Folha has heard reports in recent days that members of the group in Kabul are panicking and unable to leave the capital.
Indeed, the capital records daily arbitrary arrests in the streets, according to videos circulating on social networks. This kind of exposure did not exist in 2001, when there was not even running water in Kabul, which must make life difficult for the Taliban in the age of Twitter and TikTok.
Yet there are still a lot of people who are afraid. During the last contact he was able to make with the report, journalist Ahmed Ali said that he and his family were still in hiding near Kabul, and that there were incessant messages on his cell phone warning of raids behind people identified as Westerners.
This makes digital patrol uncertain as a moderating factor for the Taliban.
In any case, such restraint on foreign consumption is more easily exercised in the capital, where Western and Afghan journalists are still active. As Reuters learned from the group, the order was not to celebrate Sunday’s victory in the traditional style – high-level gunfire, looting, the possible murder of a passer-by.
It is enough to go 150 km from the capital, to Jalalabad, the big city which connects Kabul to the Pakistani border. Confusion reigned on Wednesday when residents attempted to prevent the Taliban from putting their flag in place of the national flag in a town square.
Capital of the province of Nangarhar, the city has always been a hotbed for the Taliban, having fallen into the hands of the former forces of the Northern Alliance before Kabul in 2001. At least three people were killed, according to the Pakistani press.
The incident may not signal a civil war, not least because the power of the Taliban seems consolidated so far, but it shows that the “light” version shown on Western television may even be welcomed by the States- United and their allies.
After all, US President Joe Biden is being criticized for the failed exit from the country and the lack of information about the fragility of the collapsed government. As for the Afghans, the Taliban’s version could be another.