On Thursday, the Taliban released a video of their leader, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, threatening to attack Vice President Joe Biden and his family. The Taliban has been fighting against Afghanistan’s government for over three decades and is considered one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world.
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On Wednesday, a Taliban fighter stood watch as a police officer controlled traffic in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
The Taliban faced the first public protests against their takeover of Afghanistan on Wednesday, as they took the first steps toward forming a functional government. Demonstrations were held in at least two towns.
In the northeastern city of Jalalabad, a public show of opposition was greeted with an overwhelming use of force. Taliban troops opened fire on the gathering, causing protestors and journalists to be beaten.
After an agreement with local officials, the Taliban took control of the city, a commercial center east of Kabul near the major border crossing with Pakistan, four days earlier without much of a struggle.
The Taliban have been patrolling the city in pickup vehicles taken from the now-defunct police force this week in huge numbers.
Hundreds of protestors marched across the main commercial street, whistling, chanting, and waving huge Afghan Republic flags, despite the dangers. According to footage broadcast by local news media sources, Taliban forces shot in the air to disperse the gathering, but the protestors did not disperse.
When it failed, the combatants had no choice but to resort to violence. There was no word on how many people were hurt or if anybody was killed.
The protest and the Taliban leadership’s reaction threatened to derail their attempts to portray themselves as responsible guardians of the government.
There were also protests in Khost, in the country’s southeast, with spectacular pictures and video showing hundreds of people taking to the streets.
The public outcry occurred as the Taliban prepared to reveal information about their government’s structure, including ministries and important posts.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longstanding top spokesperson, declared, “We don’t want Afghanistan to be a war longer.” “The battle is finished as of today.”
While many were dubious of such promises, the rhythms of everyday life began to return in Kabul — albeit with numerous restrictions.
Women were notably absent from the streets. Some of women who went out did not wear the customary burqa, a full-length veil that conceals the face that was mandatory while the Taliban was in power. A knock on the door may frighten people in their homes and businesses.
It remains to be seen if the pragmatic requirements of a 38-million-strong country will continue to moderate the group’s ideological extremism that characterized its leadership from 1996 to 2001. However, the nation that the Taliban currently rule is a far cry from what it was two decades ago.
Women’s development is the most obvious example, with millions of girls in school and women in important positions in civic society. Years of Western investment in the country, however, have aided in the rebuilding of a country that was in ruins when the Taliban first appeared.
The demonstrations showed that many Afghans are not willing to accept Taliban rule.
The public expects fundamental necessities to be fulfilled, and the Afghan government’s inability to satisfy those requirements fueled popular support for the Taliban. This enabled them to sweep throughout the nation quickly — frequently via dialogue with disgruntled local leaders rather than military force.
Jawed was selling apples at a riverfront market in Kabul on Wednesday. He was not old enough to recall the Taliban’s terrible rule since he was born the year they were deposed.
This week, his main worry was obtaining fruit supply from Pakistan. He said that it was now much simpler.
“The roads are now clean and quiet,” Jawed, who goes by one name, added. For the time being, the Taliban meant greater order in the traffic and lower wholesale costs. However, business did not improve.
“Right now, people are scared, and they aren’t buying,” he said. “At the very least, it’s better than it was yesterday.” Things will gradually get better. The mullahs are on their way.”
The presence of the Taliban mullahs – the religious leaders of the organization — sparked widespread dread.
Thousands of people are still attempting to flee. People flocked to the banks early, fearful that they would not be able to feed their family. The Taliban have a monopoly on the use of force and will determine how and when to use it, as shown by the deployment of troops at checkpoints throughout Kabul.
On Monday, crowds of Afghans seeking to leave the country gathered in front of Kabul’s international airport. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
The tragic sights at Kabul’s international airport during the frantic first 48 hours following the Afghan government’s collapse prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon.
Despite the fact that the airport is now under US military control and evacuation flights have been increased, tens of thousands of Afghans are still trying to flee Taliban authority.
And the American experience in Vietnam is being brought up again, this time as an example of how much more the US might do if it had the political will and international backing that followed the US withdrawal from Vietnam.
Following the Vietnam War, a bipartisan agreement and a shared sense of moral duty combined to form the foundation for Operation New Life, which quickly evacuated 130,000 vulnerable individuals, mostly Vietnamese, to a temporary refugee camp on the island of Guam. They were then processed and sent to temporary migration facilities throughout the country.
1.4 million Vietnamese immigrants ultimately settled in the nation after years of persistent attempts.
Now, the US is attempting to provide protection for a far smaller number of people, and it is failing miserably.
The speed of current flights has accelerated, according to Pentagon sources, as additional American soldiers came to secure the Kabul airport, with military aircraft and a limited number of commercial flights flying.
Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor told a press conference that seven C-17 aircraft evacuated 700 to 800 passengers, including 165 Americans and an unspecified number of foreigners and Afghans who had cooperated with the US government and NATO troops.
According to General Taylor, the evacuation operation may expand to 5,000 to 9,000 people per day leaving from the airport. However, tens of thousands are thought to be seeking urgent safe passage out of Afghanistan, including those who served as translators with US and partner troops throughout the conflict and fear Taliban retaliation.
Over 15,000 Afghans, together with their families, have been relocated in the United States on special immigrant visas. At least 18,000 additional applications are waiting, with the number likely to increase if the crisis worsens.
There are significant similarities between the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the present situation, with implications for meeting current humanitarian needs,” said Alexander Betts, a University of Oxford professor of forced migration and international affairs.
“The similarities should be inspiring,” he added, “and demonstrate that large-scale relocation is feasible with political will and international leadership.”
However, he believes that there will no longer be the same level of political support for large-scale refugee admissions.
“In the wake of September 11, 2001, the politics of refugee support is also considerably different, including public worries about security and refugees from mainly Muslim countries,” he added.
Politics, bureaucracy, and the Taliban threat have all hampered the process in Afghanistan.
The International Refugee Assistance Project’s head of strategy, Betsy Fisher, claimed her organization had clients who had filed for refugee status ten years ago and were still waiting.
“Some have applied in the past two weeks out of fear for their lives,” she added.
The Biden administration has set a deadline of Aug. 31 to complete the evacuation operation, leaving little time to process these long visa applications.
It was also uncertain if those who were eligible for a trip would be able to travel to Kabul’s airport. Although General Taylor claimed that the Taliban were not obstructing the evacuation effort inside the airport, many Kabul residents claimed that Taliban fighters were stationed along the road leading to the airport, making it difficult for civilians to get there, and in at least one case, beating people as they approached.
On Tuesday evening, a guy and his family was begging with Taliban militants at a checkpoint near the French Embassy to let them through.
He added, referring to the French officials, “They have contacted me and they are going to remove me and my family out of the country.” “Please allow me to pass.”
The youthful warriors did not sympathize with his pleadings. They said that no one was getting through. He needs to return home.
On Monday, a throng gathered outside a C-17 cargo aircraft of the United States Air Force at Kabul’s international airport. Credit… Associated Press/Shekib Rahmani
Human body parts were discovered in the wheel well of an American military cargo aircraft that took off amid pandemonium at Hamid Karzai International Airport this week, as the US military ramps up air evacuations from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Officials from the Air Force have not said how many people died in the incident, which occurred on Monday, but said on Tuesday that the service was investigating “the loss of civilian lives” as a crowd of Afghans climbed onto the plane’s wings and fell from the sky after it took off, desperate to flee the country after their government fell to the Taliban.
The terrible sight – of American military power flying away while Afghans clung to hope against all odds — was immediately become a symbol of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, thanks to harrowing footage captured by Afghan news media.
At a press conference on Tuesday, national security advisor Jake Sullivan stated, “We’re all dealing with a human cost to these events.”
During the chaos at the airport on Sunday and Monday, American pilots and soldiers had to make split-second choices. According to military authorities, another C-17 cargo aircraft departed Kabul late Sunday with 640 passengers on board, more than twice the intended amount. According to authorities, the pilots decided that the massive aircraft could bear the weight. That aircraft arrived at its destination safely.
However, those who attempted again the following day aboard a second C-17 were not so lucky. The Air Force aircraft – call sign REACH885 — landed on the runway early Monday. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Afghans surged forward minutes after the aircraft touched down, came to a halt, and dropped its back ramp, while the tiny crew stared in horror.
Fearing for their safety, the crew members rushed back inside the aircraft and pulled up the loading ramp, according to authorities. Officials claimed several Afghans climbed onto the plane’s wings and, unbeknownst to the crew, into the wheel well where the landing gear would fold after takeoff.
After just minutes on the ground, the crew contacted air traffic control, which was controlled by US military troops, and the aircraft was approved for departure.
The pilot and co-pilot then noticed that the landing gear would not retract completely. They dispatched a crew member down to look through a tiny window in the wheel well while aloft, which enables them to see possible issues in the wheel well.
The crew then discovered the corpses of an unknown number of Afghans who had stowed themselves in the wheel well and had been crushed by the landing gear.
At a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, left, fielded questions from reporters. Credit… The New York Times’ Jim Huylebroek
The Taliban’s senior commanders have spent years on the run, hiding, being imprisoned, and avoiding American drones. They’ve emerged from the shadows after a 20-year struggle, but nothing is known about them or how they want to rule.
The Taliban’s commanders have attempted to indicate that they are more worldly and tolerant than their predecessors in the 1990s as they assume control of Afghanistan’s government and a country of 38 million people, ready to deal with women and encouraging people to return to work without fear of retaliation.
But the issue remains: Have they really abandoned the extreme philosophy that has guided them through two decades of conflict, or is this all a ploy to gain world acceptance? There are some hints in what is known about the movement’s leaders.
Supreme Leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada
The Taliban published an undated photo of Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada in May 2016. Credit: Getty Images/Agence France-Presse
He is an Islamic law expert who has long advocated suicide bombing and is regarded as a spiritual leader for the organization. His kid trained as a suicide bomber and, at the age of 23, blew himself up in Helmand Province. According to Carter Malkasian, author of “The American War in Afghanistan,” this boosted Mr. Akhundzada’s prominence in the movement.
Mr. Akhundzada emerged as a compromise option after the previous Taliban supreme commander, Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, was assassinated in a US drone attack in 2016. Antonio Giustozzi, a prominent Taliban historian, stated, “They wanted someone more consensual, someone more able to bring the various groups together.”
Mr. Akhundzada, a pragmatic, overruled the group’s political leaders, allowing the military wing to ramp up assaults on Afghan cities, according to Mr. Giustozzi.
Deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani
Haqqani, Sirajuddin Credit…FBI
Mr. Haqqani, 48, is the son of a famous mujahedeen figure who runs a vast network of soldiers and religious schools from a base in Pakistan. He has directed most of the Taliban’s recent military operations.
His Haqqani network, which had strong connections to Pakistani intelligence, was the most ardent opponent of the American occupation in Afghanistan. It was behind the abduction of American hostages, sophisticated suicide assaults, and targeted killings.
Mr. Haqqani and his network also have some of the deepest and longest-standing connections to Al Qaeda, including assisting Osama bin Laden in escaping from his Tora Bora headquarters after the 2001 US invasion.
Anas Haqqani, his younger brother, has been involved in the Doha peace talks and was in Kabul on Wednesday for discussions with former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, the Afghan delegation’s chairman. He was joined by the speaker of the Afghan Parliament’s upper chamber.
Political deputy Abdul Gani Baradar
In July, Abdul Ghani Baradar attended peace negotiations in Qatar. Credit… Getty Images/Karim Jaafar/Agence France-Presse
Mr. Baradar was a founding member of the Taliban and served as the founder’s main deputy, Mullah Muhammad Omar.
Mr. Baradar was in charge of the movement’s military activities until he was arrested by Pakistan in 2010 under US pressure. The troops under his command were known for their deft use of guerilla tactics against British and American forces.
He was freed in 2019, following increased US pressure, after three years in a Pakistani jail and many years under house arrest, to assist negotiate the peace agreement struck with the Trump administration in 2020.
According to Mr. Malkasian, he established a “warm” connection with Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to the discussions, throughout the negotiations.
Military commander Mullah Muhammad Yaqoub
Mr. Yaqoub, the son of Mullah Omar, has earned prominence for his work with the Taliban’s military forces, but he is unlikely to challenge Mr. Haqqani for the No. 2 position.
He is seen as less hardline than his father, and he defeated a competitor for the head of the Taliban’s military branch.
President Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said he would not “speculate on the timing issue” regarding US military departure from Afghanistan. Credit… The New York Times’ Stefani Reynolds
President Biden has been asked by a bipartisan group of 44 senators to extend the administration’s August 31 deadline for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and to “remain as long as is necessary” to allow American citizens, friends, and vulnerable Afghans to safely exit the country.
Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey and a former Obama administration official, led a letter to Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday urging him to allow people with Special Immigrant Visas, as well as “vulnerable Afghans slated for evacuation,” to stay at Kabul’s international airport “for as long as necessary until their turn comes to get onto a plane, so that they are not frightened.”
According to the letter, leaving our friends behind would be “unconscionable and damaging to our reputation, given the promises we have made.” Mr. Biden had no reason to believe he was obligated to the Taliban, who had “never completely lived up to their end of the agreements they made with us,” according to the report.
Mr. Biden has ordered the deployment of 6,000 soldiers to Afghanistan to assist with the evacuation of Afghan allies and US civilians. Thousands of Afghans have flocked to the airport in an attempt to flee the country, including those who worked for the US-backed Afghan government or assisted American troops throughout the 20-year war. Although a Taliban spokesperson said that the organization would not retaliate against old foes, anxiety is running high.
The national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, refused to commit to the administration’s self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31 for the current operation.
When asked if American soldiers will stay in the nation until everyone had been evacuated, Mr. Sullivan said the government was “working day by day to get as many people out, so I’m not going to guess on the timeline issue” during a White House press conference on Tuesday.
For the time being, tens of thousands of Afghan friends are stuck in the middle.
Mr. Biden defended his administration’s reaction on Monday, saying that “some Afghans did not want to go early” and that the Afghan government “discouraged us from arranging a large evacuation to avoid creating, as they put it, a “crisis of trust.”
In an interview, Mr. Malinowski said that this was only partially accurate.
He said, “There were plenty of Afghans that wish to remain and do all they can for their nation.” “However, it was also true that many individuals were attempting to flee.”
This year, girls at a school in Sheberghan, Afghanistan. Credit… The New York Times’ Kiana Hayeri
Afghan women were prohibited from working outside the home or leaving the house without a male guardian under the previous Taliban administration in Afghanistan, which lasted from 1996 to 2001. The Taliban abolished females’ education and publicly flogged anyone who disobeyed the group’s moral code.
The issue today is whether the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic law will be as harsh as it was when it was in power last.
Officials from the Taliban are attempting to convince women that this time will be different. A Taliban spokesperson stated on Tuesday at a press conference in Kabul that women will be permitted to work and study. Another Taliban official said that women should be allowed to run for office.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson, said, “We promise you that there will be no violence against women.” “No discrimination against women will be tolerated, but Islamic principles will serve as our guide.” When pressed for further information, he merely stated that women may participate in society “within the confines of Islamic law.”
However, there are isolated indications that the Taliban have started to reimpose the old order, at least in certain places.
Women in certain regions have been advised not to leave the house without being escorted by a male relative. Witnesses claimed Taliban militants guarded the university’s gates in Herat, western Afghanistan, on Tuesday, preventing female students and teachers from entering.
Women’s health facilities in Kandahar’s southern city have been closed, according to a local. Since the Taliban took control of certain provinces in November, females’ schools have been shuttered in some areas.
Women there claimed they were beginning to wear the head-to-toe burqa in public, partially out of fear and partly in expectation of Taliban regulations.
Female students at Kabul University in the city were informed they couldn’t leave their dorm rooms unless they were escorted by a male guardian. Two students said that they were essentially imprisoned in the city since they had no male relations.
Aliya Kazimy, a 27-year-old university lecturer in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, claimed that women shopping alone in the city’s market were turned away and urged to return with male guardians.
In a text message, she added, “I am from the generation that had a lot of possibilities when the Taliban fell 20 years ago.” “I was able to accomplish my academic objectives, and I worked as a university professor for a year, but now my future is bleak and unclear. All of those years of toiling away and dreaming were in vain. What does the future hold for the young girls who are just starting out?”
In June, during President Biden’s maiden foreign tour, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom met with President Biden in Cornwall. Credit… The New York Times/David Mills
The messy exit from Afghanistan has attracted parallels in the United Kingdom, not to helicopters flying out of Saigon, but to a previous disaster: the 1956 Suez crisis, in which a humiliated Britain was forced to withdraw from Egypt after failing to depose Egypt’s nationalist leader.
The issue is that, despite suffering the second-highest number of fatalities in the Afghanistan war behind the US, Britain had little influence in the timing or tactics of the most recent pullout.
President Biden has humiliated and enraged British diplomats as a result of this.
Rory Stewart, a former British cabinet minister with extensive experience in Afghanistan, stated, “He hasn’t simply insulted America’s Afghan friends.” “By showing their powerlessness, he has humiliated his Western allies.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has worked hard to build a positive relationship with Vice President Joe Biden, now has to deal with the repercussions from a situation in which he is mainly a spectator.
Mr. Johnson addressed a recalled Parliament on Wednesday on his government’s emergency plans to evacuate thousands of British citizens and provide refuge to Afghans who assisted British troops and diplomats during their two-decade involvement there.
In 2016, Zakia Khudadadi, left, stretches before a training session at the Afghan National Taekwondo Federation facility in Kabul. Credit… The New York Times’ Adam Ferguson
Two Afghan competitors who were supposed to participate in the Paralympics in Tokyo will not be able to compete, according to officials.
Hossain Rasouli, 26, was set to participate in the men’s 100-meter dash, while Zakia Khudadadi, 22, had qualified for the Paralympic debut of taekwondo. According to the International Paralympic Committee, they were supposed to travel with at least one official.
The athletes will be unable to attend the Games due to the turmoil created by the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, which has resulted in the cancellation of most commercial flights.
“All airports are blocked due to the severe continuing crisis in the nation, and there is no option for them to go to Tokyo,” the I.P.C. stated. “We wish the squad and officials safety and well-being at this trying time.”
In July 2018, Malala Yousafzai spoke at an event in So Paulo, Brazil, on the significance of education and female empowerment. Credit… Getty Images/Miguel Schincariol/Agence France-Presse
Malala Yousafzai, who survived a Taliban murder attempt and went on to become an advocate for girls’ education and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, penned a guest article for The New York Times’ Opinion section this week. Here’s a sample of what she wrote.
Millions of Afghan women and girls have gotten an education in the past two decades. Now, the future they were promised is on the verge of vanishing. The Taliban, who banned almost all girls and women from attending school and punished any who resisted them until they lost power 20 years ago, are back in power. I, like many other women, am concerned about my Afghan sisters.
I can’t stop thinking about my own childhood. I concealed my books beneath my long, heavy shawl and went to school in dread when the Taliban took over my hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in 2007 and prohibited females from receiving an education. When I was 15, the Taliban attempted to assassinate me for speaking out about my right to attend school.
I can’t help but be thankful for where I am today in my life. I can’t fathom losing everything — going back to a life defined by guys with weapons — after graduating from college last year and beginning to carve out my own professional path.
During a meeting in Tianjin in July, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, is seen with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Credit… Associated Press/Li Ran/Xinhua
The catastrophic events emerging in Afghanistan have acted as a stinging confirmation of China’s animosity against American power. Any arrogance in Beijing, though, may be premature.
China is already rushing to assess how the United States’ loss would affect the competition between the world’s two major powers. While the Taliban’s defeat has harmed American reputation and influence on China’s western border, it also poses new geopolitical and security threats.
Officials in Beijing are concerned that extremists might regroup on China’s flank and spread instability throughout the region, even as the Taliban want assistance and investment from deep-pocketed nations like China. The US military departure may also enable the country to focus its strategy and resources on fighting Chinese dominance across Asia.
“In Beijing, there should be concern rather than glee,” said John Delury, a Chinese studies professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. “Focusing money and attention on the long-term competition with China will be easier with the military presence in Afghanistan ending.”