The Taliban still celebrating a year after taking control of Afghanistan | World News

For days the Taliban leadership told us there were no celebrations being planned for 15 August, the day their fighters rolled into the capital.

“That’s for you and the West,” a senior figure told us. “Our celebration is for 31 August, the day we kicked the foreign forces out.”

Organised or not, the Taliban were out on the streets from the early morning.

From the rooftop where I first glimpsed their arrival exactly a year ago, I could see their white and black flags attached to trucks, cars, and motorcycles, careering along the road, honking their horns.

This was to be a day of celebration by the Taliban, but I didn’t see huge crowds on the streets clapping their 12-month-old success.

Just convoys of their loyal supporters and lots and lots of heavily armed fighters.

A year ago, the Taliban couldn’t believe they took Kabul so easily. They celebrated then and are celebrating now. The day was declared a new public holiday, Independence Day, as they put it, and they took to the streets in their famous pick-up trucks and captured armoured vehicles left behind by the United States and its NATO allies.

To this conquering army NATO’s greatest failure was never in doubt. We met a group of men who had travelled to the capital from Helmand Province, they told us they always knew this day would come.

“Yes, we were 100% sure this would happen, that we would take Kabul and Afghanistan,” they told me when I asked them what the anniversary meant to them.

“The foreign army was fighting us, but we always knew that one day we would conquer again and celebrate.”

Exactly a year on the Taliban continued a new tradition of a televised media event.

It was open to the international media, but overwhelmingly attended by senior figures and loyalists.

A group of men travelled from Helmand Province to mark the one year anniversary
A group of men travelled from Helmand Province to mark the one year anniversary

Special forces soldiers, who were manning the doors and doing security checks, struggled to hold back people eager to get inside the packed auditorium that is next door to the United States embassy, in the heart of the Green Zone, built by the foreign forces over 20 years.

This overwhelmingly male gathering was gatecrashed by a handful of predominantly foreign female reporters, producers, and photographers.

At first my producer Dominique Van Heerden was told women had to go upstairs and watch from a balcony, within minutes we realised that was nonsense and she came down and joined a small group of women in the main hall.

The Taliban held a televised media event a year after taking control of Afghanistan
The Taliban held a televised media event a year after taking control of Afghanistan

The Taliban guards seemed somewhat at a loss as to what to do with them, especially as they can’t actually touch them and throw them out – so they simply refused to leave and the Taliban gave up.

In the audience some of the big names of the movement, they’re basically Taliban royalty, including Anas Haqqani, a powerful 28-year-old leader, and a negotiator with the United States in Doha.

His arrival sparked a flurry of activity by the press corps eager for pictures of him. By pure chance he sat right behind me.

Special forces soldiers were out in Kabul as the Taliban marked a year since they captured the city
Special forces soldiers were out in Kabul as the Taliban marked a year since they captured the city

Flunkies beseeched him to go to the front of the gathering, to the VIP seats that had been reserved for people just like him.

My Afghan producer told me he said he wanted to stay where he was because he wasn’t going to stay for the whole event.

At that point I suggested to my producer that we ask him for an interview. He swallowed hard and said “Stuart, it’s better if you ask him and I’ll translate”.

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Taliban official on girls’ education

The Haqqani family are very powerful, and to all Afghans, very scary. So I turned around in my seat, introduced myself, and asked if we could have an interview. He looked closely at me and asked, “what about?”.

I said the significance of the day maybe, and the economic and human rights problems that his government is facing in the eyes of the West.

He said: “You’ve got two questions, and then I leave.”

After about 45 minutes he tapped me on the shoulder and indicated I was to go outside.

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The Sky News team moved en masse out of the auditorium.

In his interview with Sky News he hinted at compromise on the issue of girls’ education, but explained that they need time.

“There are no politics involved with this, and with the passage of time this issue will be solved,” he told me.

“We want the international community and other institutions to not use it negatively, or use it against us, and it should not be a condition for aid.”

This is nuanced stuff but for a Haqqani family member – an ultra-conservative group – this a big deal.

Read more:
‘Don’t use restrictions on girls’ education against us’, says senior Taliban leader
Evacuation of Kabul happened with ‘tragic yet avoidable outcomes’, damning report claims
Former head of British Army Lord Dannatt calls for aid to be sent to Afghanistan despite human rights abuses

For Western governments to go along with this would be a huge leap of faith. But there is a growing consensus amongst some governments, and NGO’s, that doing nothing and letting thousands of people die from starvation, lack of medical facilities, and the freezing cold of winter here, would be unacceptable.

Back on the streets though, to the foot soldiers celebrating outside the now mothballed US embassy, a symbol of the failed campaign to change Afghanistan, none of these complicated issues really matter.

In truth, many of these Taliban were babies when the war started.

A trillion dollars and 21 years later… they’re in total control.

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