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Despite the calming words, the Taliban are as they were

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For five years in power until 2001, they banished women to their homes, banned music and most sports, and imposed relentless punishments on criminals. The adulterers were stoned in public; the thieves amputated their hands. The criminals were hanged so everyone could see them.

Anything that didn’t fit his austere interpretation of sharia was a goal. They exploded the centennial Buddhas of Bamiyan because they saw the art that represented the human form as an affront to God.

The Taliban came from a deeply conservative rural environment, where their perception of religious purity and pious cultural traditions was superior to all that the modern world could offer: education, technology, discourse, the very idea of ​​choice. .

They believe that their success was given by God. Anas Haqqani, a member of Afghanistan’s most powerful family, told CNN that the Taliban “triumphed over 52 [countries]. It is not due to the worldly plan; it is because of the blessing of faith. ”

It followed that the management of the country would only have one inspiration. Khalil Haqqani, Anas ’uncle and caretaker government minister, told a tribal summit in Kabul:“ The goal was to create a pure Islamic government in Afghanistan, a government focused on justice and whose laws are divine. “It will be based on a book, that of God and his prophet. This book is the holy Qur’an.”

The Taliban also see themselves as the vanguard of a national uprising in which Afghans launched a foreign culture imposed by foreigners. Anas Haqqani told CNN that the West “should not try to impose its culture and thoughts / beliefs on Afghans.” A creepy message for the many Afghans who valued the freedoms of the past 20 years.

The Taliban really believe that they defeated America, and that is enormously strong for their ideology. Haqqani compared the Taliban to George Washington, telling CNN he had “released”[d] his homeland; he had defeated the British; they had earned their independence. Here our elders are heroes for their nation … they have liberated their land; they have defended their religion and honor. “

Claim of popular roots

A Taliban spokesman said on August 15 when the group moved to Kabul that they might have surprised the world, but not themselves “because we have roots among the people.”

This is true in their southern nuclei and among small farmers. In the cities, and especially in Kabul, less. Despite all the corruption and nepotism of U.S.-backed governments in Afghanistan, the health, wealth, and education of Afghans have improved almost every metric of the twenty years since the Taliban last ruled. A vibrant independent media expressed a wide range of views; private universities flourished. A whole generation of Afghans tasted freedom.

A Taliban fighter guards a street in Herat on August 14, 2021.

As they grew from one province to another, the Taliban raised the possibility of a more tolerant reincarnation. The word “inclusive” came out of the lips of their spokesmen; they let most of the soldiers return home instead of killing them. They promised amnesty for all opponents.

Women judges in Afghanistan are in hiding for fear of retaliatory attacks by imprisoned men

The day the Taliban swept into Kabul, Suhail Shaheen, the current envoy proposed by the Taliban to the United Nations, assured CNN that the girls would be educated until college age.

And the days after the expulsion of the previous one government, a grand show of talks was held with former President Hamid Karzai and former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah. There were tribal meetings in Kabul.

The reality has been very different. Conversations with Karzai and Abdullah evaporated. His personal security remains tenuous. The Provisional Government was provided with hard veterans. There were no women in government or in any public office; the Ministry of Women became the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue.

The protests were quickly suppressed and banned unless authorized by the Interior Ministry. Athletes from Afghanistan reached the exits, by the dozens.

The Taliban offered the promise of security, in response to the insecurity they themselves had created. His latest publication is titled: “Security and stability prevail throughout Afghanistan.”

As Anas Haqqani rhetorically asked about the years of the civil war: “Was it better to kill 200 people every day?”

Taliban soldiers attack Massoud forces in Kabul, Afghanistan on October 16, 1996.

Murder – and kidnappings

After the death of four kidnappers in Herat, their bodies were hung from the cranes as an example for others. The bodies of other kidnappers were dumped in a Mazar-i-Sharif square. A Taliban ideologue has defended amputation as punishment.

This is justified in the name of social peace. “Now peace has come, what the people of the world wanted,” Haqqani said. “Peace has reached 100%, there is security, the thieves have disappeared, I do not cease fire, but the war is over.”

Thieves may be disappearing, but ISIS obviously isn’t. IS Khorasan – which sees the Taliban as an apostate regime – has carried out attacks in Jalalabad, Kabul and Kunduz since the Taliban came to power, with the aim of proving that the Taliban cannot provide security and are “soft” with minorities such as the Shiites. IS Khorasan has no doubts, as evidenced by last Friday’s attack on a Shiite mosque in Kunduz. The Taliban’s reputation for bringing peace and security will depend on its ability to paralyze ISIS – Khorasan, a group that has challenged intense efforts to destroy it over the past five years.

Kabul women return to work, school and the streets, defying the Taliban

They have also promised an end to corruption, claiming that the United States had “handed over the reins of power to the great thieves and corrupters, who intimidated and charged rights to vendors and farmers.”

As for the bright promises of August, there has been some “recalibration.” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told CNN in August? September ?: “We haven’t decided on women’s issues or rights yet, but we’re discussing.” It was necessary to have different methods of transportation and teaching, he said.

In short, their view of the world is diametrically opposed to that of Western democracies.

Anas Haqqani argued that the freedom women have elsewhere is not real freedom, and told CNN: “Women are our mother, our sister and our daughter. The respect that this nation has for women. women – no one in the world has that. Look – in the West you have forced them to be servants. ”

The military victory of the Taliban was so complete that they have little incentive to engage or negotiate with the warlords of Afghanistan. They have moved quickly to eliminate dissent, whether from social activists, rebels in the Panjshir Valley, or Salafists who practice Islam differently from the Taliban.

But the group is not a monolith. The long internal debate over the formation of a government exposed disagreements, while strong tensions between pragmatic political leaders and doctrinaire military commanders are won over by hardline militarists.

This in itself may limit the room for maneuver of leadership over women’s rights, elections, and media freedom, even if they wanted to make a moderate gesture. In the past, some Taliban have abandoned even more militant groups, and in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan ISIS is waiting for the opportunity to recruit the disaffected if the Taliban reduce their fundamentalism.

There is every chance that the Taliban elite in Kabul will make emollient noises when the media and foreign governments question them on these issues, while the reality for the Afghan people, far from the gaze of the international community, will be very harder.

Two months after entering the presidential palace, evidence suggests that it is not a Taliban 2.0 that is leading Afghanistan as much as a Taliban 1.1.

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