Eighteen days after taking power and two nights after the end of the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban received on Wednesday (1) the first international aid.
A plane from Qatar arrived in Kabul, the first landing since a C-17 freighter took off at 23:59 on Monday (30) with the last Americans on board. The aircraft brought technicians who will work to reopen the city’s airport.
The scene of the most dramatic scenes of the American evacuation, like Afghans falling from a plane in flight and the deadliest attack on the capital during the 20 years of Western occupation, Hamid Karzai International Airport could resume commercial flights until the end of the week.
That’s the expectation of human rights activist groups, eager to help the thousands of people left behind in the retreat, notably Afghans — of the 122,000 who managed to flee, about 100,000 were nationals who worked for Western and they feared reprisals.
“As neutral and fair mediators, we gain trust,” Qatari Chancellor Mohammed bin Aderraham al Thani told state media in the emirate. For years, Doha has hosted diplomatic contacts between the Taliban and the Americans, culminating in the 2020 peace agreement with the Donald Trump government.
The terms of the settlement were torn apart by fundamentalists, who did not negotiate with Ashraf Ghani’s government, but overthrew it.
On Tuesday (31), President Joe Biden defended the continuation of the withdrawal, without admitting its chaotic character and with more than 200 deaths, claiming that the option would be “another decade in Afghanistan”.
The Qataris are the first to arrive. China, for its part, has already given clear signs that it will be able to recognize the Taliban government, as well as Russia. With interests in regional stability and, in the case of Beijing, some economic focus, both powers want to fill the vacuum of their American rivals.
The Taliban has already asked for formal support from the Chinese. Although Western countries like Germany say it will be necessary to dialogue with fundamentalists, the general tone is one of hostility. Taliban leader Anas Haqqani, a figurehead today, gloated about the American defeat in Twitter posts.
It remains to be seen which government will be formed and, above all, how it will work. The Taliban has repeatedly said it would not emulate its brutal simulacrum of a medieval caliphate in force from 1996 to 2001, when it was overthrown by the US for supporting the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks.
In that incarnation, only the allies Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE recognized the Taliban. Thus, there is the expectation that opposition figures of the Taliban over the years and who have been talking to the group, such as former president Hamid Karzai and former chancellor Abdullah Abdullah, will join the government or some type of council.
The spiritual leadership of the country, which has been renamed the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, will be the reclusive commander Haibatullah Akhundzada. He’s in Kandahar but hasn’t been seen in public for years.
The executive functions, on the other hand, should include Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, chief negotiator of the peace agreement, and controversial figures such as Mohammad Yaqoob and the aforementioned Haqqani — respectively, the son of Taliban founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and one of the leaders of the homonymous terrorist network.
The formation of the new administration should avoid the mistake of the past government, which was to ignore those who took care of the bureaucracy. Therefore, the Taliban insists that it will grant amnesty to any opponent who decides to collaborate.
The stance also tries to sell the world a more moderate image, which excludes violence against women and opponents, based on a radical reading of sharia, Islamic law. The country, after all, needs money, and funds from the opium trade or the clandestine aid of the ally Pakistan alone are not enough.
At the same time, few believe in the Taliban’s full commitment, as reports of harassment and the return of restrictions on women indicate. In Kabul, female doctors, nurses and teachers have already been allowed to return to work, but completely separately from men.
Close to the aberrant regime in force in the 1990s, it’s almost Scandinavia. But that doesn’t mean there’s peace of mind: the Reuters news agency collected several testimonies from women who want to leave the country because they don’t feel safe at work.
There is also the everyday chaos to be managed, something not usually associated with people who have only made war in their careers. In Kabul, since the banks reopened on Monday (30), there have been lines of people trying to withdraw money — despite the current limitation.
Since taking over the capital on the 15th, the Taliban have also seen an inflationary surge in the already quite informal local economy. There are similar reports in other large cities across the country, such as Jalalabad.
In the security of the capital, which is exercised by the Haqqani network, the situation still seems under control, despite the attack carried out last week by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State. The biggest fear, reported to Folha in recent days by people in hiding, is of reprisals by the new government.
The Taliban just does not control the Panjshir Valley region in the northeast of the country today. On Wednesday, military commander Amir Khan Motaqi urged the detained rebels to surrender without a fight. “The Islamic Emirate is home to all Afghans,” he said, in a conciliatory tone that, of course, raises suspicion.
The Panjshir never surrendered to the Taliban, and the former Northern Alliance based there was the ground force that took over Kabul in 1996, with the support of bombers and later Western troops.