Friday, September 30

See: Special documentary on life inside Afghanistan immediately after the Taliban takeover

Historian Will Durant calculated that there have only been 29 years in all of human history when war was not underway somewhere.

In Afghanistan, that estimate takes on a whole new meaning.

For the past four decades, the country has been a symbol of a state ruined by war. From the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1979 to the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, to the political and security chaos that witnessed the group’s resurgence today: world decision makers have had little success in help create an environment in which the Afghan people can rebuild their country once and for all and begin planning for their future.

Over the years, billions have been promised; innumerable peace talks were organized; tens of thousands of troops deployed to fight and keep the peace. And yet Afghanistan remains a country on the edge.

In 2021, Afghans saw the United States “appallingly mishandling” the reduction of its troops and the return of the Taliban to power, at a watershed moment for the region and the world.

My visit to Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban take over

I traveled to Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban took over Kabul, to report on what the return of the militants would mean for the country and its people.

During my days in Kabul, I was able to speak with the Taliban infantrymen, as well as with the commanders and officials of the new government. I confronted the group about some of their promises to this complex nation, divided in almost every way possible – along ethnic, religious, tribal, linguistic and ideological lines – an inclusive and power-sharing administration.

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I also met Afghans caught up in this momentous change. Many fear for their future, the memories of the past are still too vivid, too painful to forget.

Afghanistan’s past

When the Taliban last ruled Afghanistan, the country plunged into what many describe as its “darkest period.” Women were not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative. Flagellations and public executions were carried out in the stadiums. Those accused of adultery were stoned to death.

While the group has promised that its return will not herald a new chapter of terror, this could be the bigger task: regaining the trust of millions of Afghans who are still marked by unimaginable levels of violence.

The present of Afghanistan

The Taliban are convinced that they can tackle Afghanistan’s problems and rule for all Afghans. He has also called on those who left to “come back and help the country.”

But the challenges ahead are immense: rebuilding institutions and infrastructure while facing near-total economic collapse.

Since the Taliban came to power, Afghanistan was abruptly cut off from roughly 8 billion euros in foreign currency reserves, 90 percent of its holdings, most of which are blocked in the United States.

The state, now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, cannot pay wages. Most of the top officials, technocrats and business leaders have left the country.

Banks can only distribute minuscule amounts of Afghan, the country’s currency. Millions of Afghans have been left without cash at a time when prices for basic supplies – food, fuel and gas – are rising.

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Electricity, about 80 percent of which is imported from neighboring Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iran, is still working, for now. But Kabul has not paid its bills since the Taliban took power on August 15.

The future of Afghanistan

After 20 years of war, the Taliban believe that victory is theirs. And whether the rest of the world likes it or not, the movement is destined to play an important role in shaping the future of Afghanistan.

But if its first nearly three months in power are anything to go by, the group has yet to deserve the trust it is asking for: its administration is made up exclusively of members of the Taliban, economic activity is still paralyzed, schools and universities remain. inaccessible to most women, and reprisals for being part of the old government, including torture and murder, remain a recurring theme.

Afghans yearn for peace and, since August 15, weapons have, for the most part, been silent in Afghanistan. But freedom is too high a price to pay for that. Afghans know it. The question is: the Taliban?

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