Nearly 20 years after they were ousted from Afghanistan, the Taliban have not only resurfaced, but virtually taken over Afghanistan. Insurgency that began roughly ten days ago, hit the country the hardest when the capital city of Kabul fell to the militant group.
Taliban fighters entered the capital and quickly took over the Presidential Palace on Sunday shortly after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went into exile. In an emotional Facebook post, Ghani explained his choice to leave. “Today, I came across a hard choice; I should stand to face the armed Taliban who wanted to enter the palace or leave the dear country that I dedicated my life to protecting and protecting the past twenty years. If there were still countless countrymen martyred and they would face the destruction and destruction of Kabul city, the result would have been a big human disaster in this six million city (sic),” wrote Ghani. “The Taliban have made it to remove me, they are here to attack all Kabul and the people of Kabul. In order to avoid the bleeding flood, I thought it was best to get out,” he explained. His complete post may be read here:
There are multiple media reports that suggest that Ghani, his family and a select group of his closest officials first fled to Tajikistan, and then to Uzbekistan.
The Taliban began as a militia group comprising students of Mullah Omar, a hardline Islamic cleric who rose to prominence after Russians withdrew from Afghanistan in the early 90s. The Afghan word ‘Talib’ means student and ‘Taliban’ is the plural. Omar had a close association with Osama Bin Laden. The United States invaded Afghanistan in wake of the 9/11 attacks orchestrated by Bin Laden to prevent the Taliban from giving him or any other Al Qaeda members refuge. The Taliban were finally ousted from the country in December 2001, after Kandahar was liberated from their clutches.
But, now, after almost 20 years, the Taliban re-emerged and began a spate of killings targeting artists, comedians and prominent liberal voices. Afghan reporters and civil society members have been sharing shocking updates on social media.
A few days ago, Afghan actor Sahraa Karimi wrote a heart-rending letter to the global film community, urging them to break their silence on the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and their crackdown on women’s rights and artists.
“In the last few weeks, the Taliban have gained control of so many provinces. They have massacred our people, they have kidnapped many children, they sold girls as child brides to their men, they murdered a woman for her attire, they gauges the eyes of a woman, they tortured and murdered one of our beloved comedians, they murdered one of our historian poets, they murdered the head of culture and media for the government, they have been assassinating people affiliated with the government, they hung some of our men publicly, they have displaced hundreds of thousands of families,” wrote Karimi. Her complete letter may be read in this tweet by her:
Veteran war correspondent Mustafa who uses the Twitter handle @combatjourno has been sharing regular updates. He, like hundreds of other journalists and their families, is stuck in Kabul.
There have been reports of gunfire from the international airport.
US President Joe Biden authorized the deployment of 5,000 US troops to ensure safe evacuation of Embassy and allied personnel. On August 14, President Biden had issued a statement to this effect saying, “I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.” He further added that the US administration had “conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, via our Combatant Commander, that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts U.S. personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.”
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby further explained that there were already “1,000 troops in Kabul; we ordered 3,000 in last week, and the President accepted the Secretary of Defense’s recommendation today to move in the lead battalion of the 82nd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, adding another 1,000.”
At the time of going to press, President Biden was expected to make a fresh statement in light of recent developments.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres advised the Taliban to exercise restrain. He tweeted, “I’m deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan & urge the Taliban & all others to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives & ensure humanitarian needs can be met. The UN remains determined to contribute to a peaceful settlement & promote human rights of all Afghans.”
Other global leaders and activists have also called for protection of human rights of Afghan citizens in wake of the Taliban takeover.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “The situation is Afghanistan continues to be extremely difficult,” adding that his government’s priority would be to deliver on “obligations to UK nationals in Afghanistan, to all those people who have helped the British effort in Afghanistan over 20 years.”