Is there a 'new' Taliban in the seat of power in Afghanistan after almost two decades of American-backed 'democracy'? How does the 'Northern Alliance' revived and led by Amrullah Saleh and General Dostum in Panjshir intend to counter Taliban's power-grab? Is Taliban ready to moderate its stance with respect to women's rights and minorities?
The only people that can give credible answers to these questions are those who belong to the Afghan soil and understand the complexity of this nation. The Quint spoke with Frud Bezhan, a journalist with Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). He covers Afghanistan and Pakistan, with a focus on politics, the Taliban insurgency, and human rights. Covering the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan through his network of local reporters, Bezhan is clear about what Taliban rule means for the country.
Below is a select, edited excerpt from this exclusive interview:
Is there a "new" Taliban in Afghanistan now?
There's nothing new about this Taliban. Their words are deceptive. There's a disconnect in Taliban's speech and actions. Despite announcing "amnesty", the Taliban are conducting home searches in Kabul. The streets of Kabul appear "normal" but no camera is showing behind-the-scenes terror.
What explains the enthusiasm around the first Taliban press conference?
The Taliban are smartly telling the world what it wants to hear. Culpable foreigns governments are eager to give the Taliban a chance.
Does Taliban's swift success signal mass support?
The Taliban has very limited support in Afghanistan. The swift surrender was partly due to Ashraf Ghani's unpopular government. A hasty US withdrawal during the peak fighting season affected morale and capability of the Afghan forces. The Afghan air force, for example, was dependent on foreign contractors, who swiftly left Kabul when the US troops began to withdraw. Decisions made outside Afghanistan are also responsible for the Taliban's success.
Taliban has promised to impose Sharia in Afghanistan? Is Sharia relatively a better way of life than strict codes that different tribes follow in Afghanistan?
Afghanistan is an Islamic Republic even now. What is the Taliban's interpretation of Islamic law? Taliban's ideology, partly Pashtoon, is alien to common Afghans. Taliban's Islam is extreme, intolerant, and foreign. It has reimposed almost all the draconian rules from the 1990s. On-ground evidence beyond Kabul shows the Taliban hasn't changed with respect to their views on women, music, minorities et al.
Which parts of the country are the most vulnerable at the moment?
Pashtun majority areas of South & South-East are the most vulnerable. Reports are emerging from across the country about attacks on artists and musicians.
Is the Amrullah Saleh-General Dostum-led resistance likely to start a civil war?
Everything depends on the Taliban's actions in the next few days. Civil war can be avoided only by a truly inclusive government. If the Taliban can manage it, maybe this civil-war can be avoided.
What do the Afghans think of Pakistan's role in the success of the Taliban?
Afghans blame Pakistan for being the Taliban's sponsors. Pakistan provided safe haven and logistic support to Taliban leaders.
Are India's aid and actions enough in Afghanistan?
Afghans feel let down by many countries, India is just one of them. Promised evacuations are slow and endangering lives. Thousands of Afghans have visas to India, Turkey, US, Europe etc but are unable to board flights. The Taliban's check-posts are deterring Afghans. India and other governments can try providing safe passage to stranded Afghans.
Where were Afghan women during the mad scramble at Kabul airport?
Visuals showed men at the forefront of clashes. However, many women, children, and elderly were also at the airport.
When will the Taliban drop the veneer of tolerance?
The Taliban will show its real face when foreign troops & media leave Kabul. In the provinces, the Taliban has not changed its views on women, human rights, free media, or music and TV.
Which places in Afghanistan need immediate intervention?
There's a great humanitarian crisis in Kabul. People from the provinces are living in public parks. Kunduz and Kandahar have witnessed great damage due to fierce fighting. The entire country needs aid and assistance.