Taliban mark Afghanistan’s independence as challenges to rule escalate

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In this photo provided by the Spanish Defense Ministry and taken in Kabul, Afghanistan, people board a Spanish Air Force A400 plane as part of an evacuation plan at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan, Wednesday August 18, 2021 (Spanish Ministry of Defense via AP)

PA

The Taliban celebrated Afghanistan’s Independence Day Thursday by declaring they had beaten the United States, but challenges to their regime, ranging from running the country’s frozen government to potential armed opposition, have started to emerge.

From cash-strapped ATMs to concerns about food in this import-dependent country of 38 million people, the Taliban face all the challenges of the civilian government they dethroned without the level of international aid that he was benefiting. Meanwhile, opposition figures fleeing to Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley are now talking about launching armed resistance under the banner of the Northern Alliance, which allied with the United States in the invasion of 2001.

The Taliban have so far not come up with any plan for the government they plan to lead, other than to say that it will be guided by Sharia, or Islamic law. But the pressure continues to mount.

“A humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions is unfolding before our eyes,” warned Mary Ellen McGroarty, head of the World Food Program in Afghanistan.

Thursday marked Afghanistan’s Independence Day, which commemorates the 1919 treaty that ended British rule in the Central Asian country.

“Fortunately, today we are celebrating the anniversary of British independence,” the Taliban said. our sacred territory of Afghanistan.

However, insurgents did not acknowledge their violent crackdown on a protest Wednesday in the eastern city of Jalalabad, which saw protests lower the Taliban flag and replace it with the tricolor of Afghanistan. At least one person was killed.

In Khost, the Taliban authorities imposed a 24-hour curfew in the province after violently dispersing a similar demonstration under the flag, according to reports obtained by journalists from abroad. Activists did not immediately recognize the incident, nor the provincial curfew.

While urging people to return to work, most government officials remain in hiding at home or try to flee the Taliban. Questions remain about Afghanistan’s $ 9 billion foreign reserves, the vast majority of which are now apparently frozen in the United States. its currency, the afghani.

Meanwhile, a drought has resulted in the loss of more than 40% of the country’s crops, McGroarty said. Many fled the advancing Taliban and now live in parks and open spaces in Kabul.

“This is truly the hour when Afghanistan needs it most, and we urge the international community to stand by the Afghan people at this time,” she said.

Mahdi Ali, who owns a grocery store in western Kabul, said that although some markets and stores had started to open, challenges remained.

“Today I bought as much as possible from local businesses that bring groceries with cars,” he said. During this time, he saw Taliban fighters seize government cars and set up checkpoints to search vehicles. Activists also checked his store several times.

Two of Afghanistan’s main border crossings with Pakistan, Torkham near Jalalabad and Chaman near Spin Boldak, are now open to cross-border trade. Hundreds of trucks passed by, Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said. However, traders still fear insecurity on the roads, confusion over tariffs and pressures to make their goods even more expensive given economic conditions.

There was no armed opposition to the Taliban. But videos from the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, a stronghold of Northern Alliance militias that allied with the United States in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, appear to show potential figures from the opposition that gather there. This area is in the only province that has not fallen to the hands of the Taliban.

These figures include members of the ousted government – Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who claimed on Twitter that he is the legitimate president of the country, and the Minister of Defense, General Bismillah Mohammadi – as well as Ahmad Massoud, the son of assassinated Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah. Massoud.

In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post, Massoud called for arms and help to fight the Taliban.

“I am writing today from the Panjshir Valley, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with Mujahedin fighters who are ready to face the Taliban again,” he wrote. “The Taliban are not a problem for the Afghan people alone. Under the control of the Taliban, Afghanistan will undoubtedly become the ground zero for radical Islamist terrorism; plots against democracies will be hatched here once again.

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