America has officially left Afghanistan, concluding the longest war in its history. The Taliban last governed the country from 1996 to 2001. They emerged in 1994, a result of the Afghan Civil War, and imposed their interpretation of Sharia law over approximately three quarters the country during their reign.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, “America should have only a diplomatic presence in Kabul. We have communication channels with them, and we expect them to reopen their embassy in Kabul, and we also want to have trade relations with them.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is hesitant, but hopeful the Taliban will allow safe passage for Americans left behind in Afghanistan, as well as stop their human rights abuses. He said, “Given the uncertain security environment and political situation in Afghanistan, it was the prudent step to take. For the time being, we will use this post in Doha to manage our diplomacy with Afghanistan, including consular affairs, administering humanitarian assistance, and working with allies, partners, and regional and international stakeholders to coordinate our engagement and messaging to the Taliban.”
An Indo-Pacific intelligence official said, “The Taliban is already noting the ‘different’ response from most of the international community as compared to the first time. I get a feeling that the Taliban senses that recognition in some form or other is inevitable. I would be happy to be proven wrong.”
The current concern of neighboring states and Europe is that Afghanistan will give rise to a refugee crisis and a new surge in terrorist threats.
Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov said, “The Taliban say all the right words for now. They will not allow the use of their territory for terrorist activities toward the east, in Xinjiang, or toward the north, in Central Asia. But so far these are just words. There are a lot more questions than answers.”
Antony Blinken said, “Going forward, any engagement with a Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only. Our vital national interests. If we can work with a new Afghan government in a way that helps secure those interests, including the safe return of Mark Frerichs, a U.S. citizen who has been held hostage in the region since early last year, and in a way that brings greater stability to the country and region and protects the gains of the past two decades, we will do it.”
Have They Changed?
Beheshta Arghand, an anchor for Tolo News, made headlines after interviewing the Taliban just days following their takeover of Afghanistan. Two weeks later, she fled the country amid fears for her life.
Arghand said, "This generation really worked, they really struggled for a new Afghanistan. I so miss my job, my country and if there is a chance and I know Taliban becomes changed and they promise what they do. If they give our rights, I would go back. But now, nothing is there."
Retired Army Major General Vincent Boles said, "Be careful what you ask for. Now they have to show they can govern a nation and people that are very different than when they left power. Will the Taliban go forward to the future or pull Afghanistan back to the past? The answer will be in their behavior. Behavior is believable."
There have been reports indicating the Taliban has been going door to door executing dissidents. Haji Mullah Achakzai, Police Chief in Badghis province near Herat was publicly executed just last month.
An Afghan man who worked with Americans in country, provided chilling audio of distant gunshots. He said, "I think there's a conflict between the Taliban, I have no idea where I'm located. From everywhere I hear the sounds of shooting, gunfire. I have no idea how to leave."
A confirmed report states that U.S. officials in Kabul gave the Taliban a list of American citizens, green card holders, and Afghan allies in an effort to grant them entry to the airport. One defense official said, "Basically, they just put all those Afghans on a kill list."
A former translator for a high-ranking U.S. Army Ranger said the Taliban had started executing allies of the U.S. in public, in provinces away from the media attention of Kabul. He said, "They are not doing really bad stuff in Kabul right now because there's a lot of media focus on Kabul, but they already started public execution in other provinces where a lot of media is not available or covering it."
President Joe Biden told George Stephanopoulos on August 18th that all Americans would get evacuated from Afghanistan. Over the past two weeks, the U.S. evacuated about 114,000 people. After the evacuation efforts came to an end, head of US Central Command General Frank McKenzie said, “We did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.”
Shortly after the last U.S. plane departed Kabul, the official Taliban Twitter account tweeted "The last American soldier left Kabul airport at 9pm Afghan time tonight and our country gained full independence. Thank God and blessings."