Special Envoy to Kabul
The Taliban are preparing to commemorate 9/11 with the inauguration ceremony of his new interim government, the last step in consolidating the power gained on the battlefield after two decades of war. They have chosen a date that “is symbolic of the invasion, destruction and looting of Afghanistan by the Americans. That is history, now comes peace and hope with the ’emirate’ », says Mullah Hanoun Haqqani, newly appointed municipal manager of Kabul, at the exit of the prayer in la mezquita de Wazir Akbar Khan. Most of the Taliban refuse to speak to the press because they say they do not have permission, but the top officials do not doubt it.
With his large black turban and his beard even blacker and a foot long, the one who could consider himself mayor of the capital remembers “the brutal two-week air offensive with which they attacked Afghanistan to then start the invasion. Thanks to Allah we have won and the future is ours ».
Luxury off-road vehicles follow one another in the vicinity of the temple after a prayer in which Afghans have been asked not to leave the country and stay to help with the reconstruction. A few words that do not reach the thousands and thousands of people who are still waiting for a saving call that allows them to leave the ’emirate’. At every step Mullah Haqqani takes, he is greeted by one of the faithful who have packed the temple. After two decades in the most absolute secrecy, like the rest of the leaders of the movement, he now lives a new life. “The Americans had no interest in helping the Afghans, they were just defending their agenda. Now we have security and we will soon come out of the economic crisis, people should be happy, “he says while asking his bodyguards to stand behind him and display their weapons for the photo of the foreign journalist.
The arrival of the Taliban has changed the landscape of the city. From Wazir Akbar Khan to Khair Khana it is only about ten minutes by car. On the way, you pass in front of the old United States Embassy, a place where the Taliban have changed the stars and stripes flag for a huge ’emirate’ flag painted on the wall that protects the main access. Anyone who now enters this legation will pass in front of the shahada who reads “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet.” Which George Bush christened ‘war on terror’ it was Washington’s response to the 9/11 attacks, and Afghanistan was its first battlefield. Two decades later, the image on the doorstep of the former US delegation in Kabul is a perfect summary of defeat.
Khair Khana is a mostly Tajik neighborhood where some of the biggest protests against the Taliban, who are mostly Pashtuns, have taken place. There is only one checkpoint at one of the entrances, but there are no militiamen inside. Asadullah Kohistany is the director of Ghulam Haider Khan school, known as “the school of hope” because of its large number of students and because it has remained operational during all the last convulsive decades in the country. Kohistany heard about the 9/11 attacks on television “and I never thought they would mean the start of a new war for us. The United States’ air strikes were harsh on a city that was devastated after years of civil war and Taliban rule. I hardly left the house for two weeks, but one day we went out and the Taliban had disappeared, we were free, ”recalls the director of this school.
Stroll through an empty room. Last year it had 10,000 students enrolled for the four daily class shifts, now they do not know when the course will start because “the Taliban do not accept that women are teachers of children over twelve years of age and half of our teaching staff are women. What can we do? ”he wonders in anguish.
The praises and greetings to the Taliban leaders of Wazir Akbar Khan become critical in this school in which the director assures that «We feel betrayed by the United StatesWe believed in the change, but we were deceived. They bet on the old warlords and made them much richer than they were, but most of us Afghans are now poorer than before. If this weren’t enough, they have fled and left us back in the hands of the Taliban. They are traitors. Kohistany thinks that “the Taliban are the same as ever, but Kabul has changed and so have we. In the former ’emirate’ it had barely 200,000 inhabitants, today we are nine million people from all over the country ».
In Khair Khana, as in many other parts of the capital, no one will celebrate the arrival of the new government, made up of the toughest Taliban wing, with 30 of the 33 Pashtun ministers and no women present. 9/11 unites all Afghans because it was the date on which the door to a new war was opened. Twenty years later, the strength and hope of the Taliban collides with the impotence and lack of future of a significant part of Afghans who only think of leaving the country as soon as possible.