Afghanistan, Taliban, Kabul, Joe Biden: after a quick victory, the Taliban find it more difficult to govern
Taliban officials, including Zabihullah Mujahid, third from right, announcing victory at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, August 31, 2021. Afghans woke up Tuesday morning to the reality of an Afghanistan firmly under Taliban control amid the escalation fears their country may be subsumed by a repressive regime as it battles a growing economic and humanitarian crisis. Image: Jim Huylebroek / The New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan – Sitting in the home of the fallen Afghan government’s spy chief, holding a Beretta submachine gun in his lap, Mawlawi Habib Tawakol recounted how he and his fighters were surprised at how quickly they were ordered to enter Kabul on August 15. even after the Taliban’s rapid advance through Afghanistan.That morning, Tawakol’s Taliban unit arrived on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, expecting to camp there for perhaps weeks while an official handover was negotiated. But there would be little waiting. President Ashraf Ghani and many other senior officials were on the run, catching everyone off guard.
“That afternoon our leaders ordered us to enter the city in order to prevent the looting,” he said. Taliban intelligence chief Haji Najibullah told him and his men to rush to the headquarters of the Afghan spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, to secure equipment and documents. Prison cells, offices, security posts, everything had been abandoned.
“There was no one there except a deputy manager, who handed over the building to us,” Tawakol said. “All the prisoners had already escaped.
Two weeks later, the Taliban are expected to officially announce their new government on Thursday, including appointing the insurgency’s top religious figure, Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, as Afghanistan’s supreme leader. But there is still a significant gap between appointing a government and taking full office, as Tawakol and other Taliban officials have discovered.
In Kabul, as in much of the country, the most important government services, with the exception of street-level security, are not functioning.
The Taliban urged former government officials to stay in their roles, and some have. But in the face of a looming economic crisis, including a worsening cash crunch that has strained the availability of fuel, food and other basic items, the Taliban has rushed over the past two weeks to s ‘establish, both in the public eye and in practice, as the new governors of the country. Much of the Afghan public remains deeply suspicious, given the harshness of the last Taliban government.
Although surprised by the rapid surrender of the Afghan government, the Taliban movement has been preparing for more than a decade to seize power, steadily expanding its pending shadow government. Over the years, they have formed national commissions for sectors such as health care and education, appointing officials down to the district level in much of the country.
While much of Kabul’s elite fled the country before the Taliban, a few senior officials chose to remain in their posts. Wahid Majrooh, the Afghan Minister of Public Health, said he refused an escape offer with Ghani.
“I stayed in the office and took the risk,” he said in a recent interview. “If I go, my managers and advisers will go. ”
The morning after the militants entered Kabul, Majrooh went to his office, where he was visited by the Taliban provincial health commissioner from neighboring Logar province. “He was surprised to see me,” he said. “His demeanor was respectful, but he didn’t have a clear message.”
Majrooh, worried about an outbreak of violence or a massive attack, wanted to make sure his hospital network remained open. He suggested that he and the Taliban official go and rally staff from two hospitals in a Shiite Hazara neighborhood in western Kabul, where residents are most fearful of the arrival of the Taliban. “He said, ‘Great idea, let’s go!’ Majrooh remembers.
Over the past two weeks, Majrooh has shared his office with Mawlawi Abdullah Khan, head of the Taliban’s health commission, whose cooperation he credited in helping staff return to work.
“Most of the ministries are locked down, their services are disrupted,” he said, adding that for health services, however, “90% of our staff have returned”.
Yet the Department of Public Health now faces the same looming financial crisis as the rest of the government, and much of Afghanistan’s bank and other funding remains frozen by the US and Western governments. The health care sector is particularly dependent on donor support; According to Majrooh, most of the organizations he works with have already suspended their operations and terminated their contracts.
“We didn’t expect them to stop funding so suddenly,” he said. “I get calls from hospitals telling me they are running out of fuel, oxygen and electricity.”
Even though the Taliban established control over Afghanistan’s formal institutions, their leadership pursued more traditional methods, including outreach through the powerful Invitation and Guidance Commission, headed by Amir Khan Muttaqi. The commission’s events included a gathering of religious scholars at the Loya Jirga Hall in Kabul last week, where the tricolor flags of the fallen Afghan republic remain painted on the wall behind the stage. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson, said the new government would be based on its religious legitimacy.
“The Afghan people have fought fiercely for 20 years for the establishment of an Islamic system,” he said in an interview with The Times at his Kabul office last week. “We had five elections and they were all corrupt. Each time, an American minister had to come and decide on the result. In Islam, we have the principle of the shura to represent the people. ”
He said that although the Taliban would ensure strict gender segregation in schools and workplaces, women would be free to study and work, as well as to leave home unaccompanied.
“Under the previous regime, we saw that it was not just financial corruption but moral corruption,” he said. “If we separate men and women, then people will feel free to send their wives and daughters. ” Taliban officials on Wednesday said Afghanistan’s new Islamic government would be announced imminently, with Akhundzada as the supreme authority.
The role of a governing shura, or council, was still unclear and whether its members would fulfill the Taliban’s promise to build an inclusive government. The question also remains whether leaders of previous governments, such as Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who remained in Kabul for talks, will be included.
In the interview, Mujahid, however, stressed that the new government envisaged by the Taliban would not be a democracy.
“Some of the principles of democracy are at odds with the principles of Islam,” Mujahid said. “For example, in a democracy, the people are sovereign. But in Islam, God is sovereign. The Koran is sovereign.
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