On the first day without a Western military presence in 20 years in Afghanistan, the country woke up with fear and doubts about the plans of the renewed Taliban regime.
The United States ended its chaotic withdrawal from Kabul one minute before midnight Tuesday (Monday afternoon in Brazil), avoiding entering the deadline announced by President Joe Biden to end the operation.
“There were shootings all night long, with the Taliban celebrating. Nobody said anything, but the television is no longer showing music,” an English teacher named Munir said by email.
Like so many others, perhaps 250,000 people on US accounts, who have worked for Western forces over the past 20 years, he asks for anonymity and still hopes to flee overland to Pakistan.
Through the capital’s airport, the exhaust valve which has recorded scenes of despair and horror over the past two weeks, the path is closed. The site, Kabul’s last western stronghold, was occupied by the Taliban – despite promises from the group that took over the city on the 15th, no one knows when and if there will be commercial flights.
The second part of Munir’s story is repeated across the country. Reuters heard from residents of Jalalabad, Ghazni and other major cities. In each of them, the television and radio stations censor themselves by removing programs that could offend the Taliban.
Turkish soap operas or talk shows were therefore suspended. This was reflected in the streets, with the ubiquitous barber shops having photos of women on their painted or torn facades.
But the point is, no one knows exactly what to do. In 2001, the burqa continued to be used in cities like Kabul and Jalalabad, visited by Folha when the Taliban began to fall back under bombs. Women were unaware of the real intentions of the new holders of power.
In five years of government, interrupted by the American reprisals for the attacks of September 11, 2001, promoted by Al-Qaeda then hidden in Afghanistan, the Taliban imposed a radical reading of Sharia, Islamic law.
The women had no civil liberty and had to wear the burqa, the traditional Pashtun tunic, the ethnic group of the group. The men needed to grow beards and were beaten by the dreaded police of the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
Occasional executions, flogging and punishments such as amputation of hands have occurred frequently, and minorities such as Hazara Shiites and Sikhs have suffered systematic persecution.
For now, with the Taliban promising moderation, the signs are worrying. The persecution of people like Munir is a well-documented reality, and in the group’s spiritual capital, Kandahar, an ordinance bans music and female radio hosts.
Kabul, publicized since the arrival of the militants on the 15th, looked more like a laboratory for this “light” version of the Taliban.
With the symbolic image of the last American serviceman to leave the country, General Chris Donahue under a night vision lens aboard the ultimate C-17 freighter, replaced by vans full of Taliban in American uniforms patrolling the airstrip of the airport, uncertainty is growing.
Western surveillance after the withdrawal will decrease. It wasn’t 1996, however, when the country was a major wreck of civil war and there was no running water, constant electricity, the internet, or reliable cell phones.
Communications, however precarious, will ensure that reports from people like Munir reach the rest of the world. What we do with it is another story.
In the military field, in addition to the completion of the occupation of an airport with around 140 pieces of equipment destroyed by the Americans, including planes and armored vehicles, the Taliban still faces a pocket of resistance 100 km to the northeast. from Kabul.
This is the Panjshir Valley, which never surrendered to the group during its first stint in power, being a stronghold of the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups. According to the rebels there, eight Taliban soldiers were killed after an invasion attempt to test their defenses at the western entrance to the valley.
The fundamentalist group, which will also have to deal with the presence of IS-K (Islamic State Khorasan), the Afghan branch of the terrorist association, has not commented on the case.
The Taliban inherited a formidable arsenal for a group accustomed to using makeshift rifles and bombs, including plenty of ammunition, armor, and planes that outfitted the Afghan National Army and Air Force.
From Kabul, photos emerged of Taliban taking selfies in airplane cabins, like one of 4 Afghan C-130 Hercules. According to the United States, these planes have been disabled for flight, likely with the removal of control software and critical parts.
The same did not happen across the country, although there was doubt as to who could fly the plane, as most of the country’s airmen fled at the start of the crisis, taking 46 planes (including possibly 14 Brazilian light attack aircraft Super Tucano) in Uzbekistan. .
Let the Taliban repeat in real life the classic scene where Arab rebels do not understand each other on how to deal with details like the clean-up of Damascus taken from the Turks in “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), no one known.
In the West, the debate over blame and recriminations over how the withdrawal was carried out continues. British Chancellor Dominic Raab denied before Parliament that London had forced the maintenance of access to the door of the abbey, the target of a deadly attack on the airport on Thursday (26).
Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, meanwhile, reaffirmed in an interview with ABC Network that the country will now continue its diplomatic efforts to expel the 100 or 200 Americans who wanted to leave Afghanistan and were unable to do it. The president will speak about the evacuation this afternoon.
Angela Merkel, the German leader, for her part said that her country would seek to help the refugees in any way possible. In total, the action has made about 122,000 people since the night of the 14th in Kabul, mostly Afghans, and the United Nations is planning an exodus of up to 500,000 fugitives from the return of the Taliban.