Kabul Near Standstill On Day One Of The Taliban’s ‘Emirate

Taliban fighters ride on a police vehicle outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16. — Reuters

By Ali M Latifi

KABUL: The first day of what the Taliban calls the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” saw Kabul, a bus­tling metropolis of six million, turn into a slow, male-dominat­ed city without police or traf­fic controls and with shuttered businesses everywhere.

A city that only 48 hours ago was jam-packed with cars and hundreds of people lining up outside banks, visa processing offices and travel agencies, had come to a near standstill.

Remnants of the Western-backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, built over 20 years of international support, linger. The dividers and K9 cages of po­lice checkpoints were still stand­ing, but unmanned.

The giant explosives scanners still stand, but with no one to op­erate them. Streets leading to the airport road were jammed with no traffic police to direct them.

The most glaring difference is the city’s new inhabitants: Taliban fighters who had come from all over the nation’s 34 provinces. They could be seen proudly waving their black-on-white flag and displaying their guns from the very four-wheel drives that used to be sent across the country to hunt them down.

They could even be seen out­side the well-guarded presiden­tial palace where, until Sunday afternoon, former President Ashraf Ghani would have sat contemplating the group’s ram­page through Afghanistan’s provinces.

By all accounts, the mostly young men had the hallmarks of the same Taliban of 1996, tradition­al clothes, beards, kohl-rimmed eyes and guns at their side.

Taliban fighters with smartphones

But there was one glaring dif­ference between these men and their predecessors, each held a smartphone and was busy tak­ing selfies with murals of the na­tion’s one-hundredth indepen­dence celebration behind them.

“We are here to serve the people,” said Ahmad, who had come from the eastern province of Maidan Wardak and gave only one name. Ahmad and his half a dozen friends were more than happy to pose for pictures and take selfies with eager passersby.

One even specifically took out his gun and held it out in front of a young man’s Galaxy phone.

“Of course, you can take a pic­ture. Take as many as you want,” the group of Taliban fighters told Al Jazeera.

During their five years or so of rule, the Taliban had banned photography and provided the public with no access to the still-fledgeling Internet.

Ahmad said he arrived with a convoy from Arghandai, about 40 minutes from the city, at about 3am on Monday. He and his men were sent as part of the Taliban’s effort to control any possible looting and other crimes after police and other security forces seemingly absconded.

“It was madness. No one was on the street, no police, noth­ing,” he said of the early morning hours in Kabul.

He claims that when they ar­rived at a police station, they found bags of heroin they accuse the po­lice of dealing in. Though the claim could not be independently veri­fied, residents of cities like Kabul have long accused the police of involvement in or complacency to­wards the nation’s drug trade.

Though no official state has been announced, Ahmad says the Islamic Emirate is already the government.

No one should fear the Taliban, the fighter said, even those who have worked with the govern­ment or foreign forces.

“We have come with an am­nesty, everyone can go about their lives,” he said as a paint­ing of Amanullah Khan, the king who declared the nation’s inde­pendence, looked down on him.

There have not been any veri­fied reports of Taliban searches or seizures in Kabul. However, resi­dents speaking to Al Jazeera from Kandahar and Herat last week said they had seen Taliban fight­ers entering the homes of people suspected of being involved with the former Kabul administration or international forces.  (ALJAZEERA)

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Agencies

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