Nineteen years after the United States launched airstrikes against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and began what would become the longest war in its history, the insurgents are stronger than ever.
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The invasion of October 7, 2001 quickly toppled the Taliban, who were home to Al Qaeda, the group behind the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, in which almost 3,000 people died.
Almost two decades after the collapse of his brutal Islamist regime, the Taliban are pushing for a return to power after signing a landmark agreement with Washington on the withdrawal of US troops in February.
They are also holding peace talks with the Afghan government. But many Afghans fear the arrival of a new era of Taliban influence and they doubt that they have changed since the dark days of his regime, when they killed women accused of adultery, attacked minority religious groups and banned girls from going to school.
“I remember the Taliban regime as a nightmare. We are afraid for our future and the future of my daughter.”said Katayun Ahmadi, a 26-year-old mother living in Kabul. He recalls seeing severed hands and fingers on the streets of Kabul for amputations to punish minor offenses, following the strict interpretation of Islamic law by the Taliban.
(In Context: Taliban and Afghan Government Meet After 18 Years)
The 2001 invasion allowed for some improvements for young Afghans, especially girls, and allowed for a Constitution that guarantees certain freedoms, including the right to education.
But so far, in the peace negotiations in Doha, which began last month, the Taliban have said almost nothing on issues such as women’s rights or freedom of expression.
An ‘Afghans’ deal
Ahmadi’s husband, Farzad Farnood, 35, a researcher at the Afghanistan Institute for Strategic Studies, says that the increase in violence by the Taliban since they signed an agreement with Washington shows that they have not changed.
“Is this giving hope to Afghans? No, it is not,” He says. As a teenager, he witnessed how the Taliban stoned a woman and saw public executions and flogging at the Kabul football stadium. His family also had to hide their black and white television antenna in a tree when the Taliban banned music and entertainment.
(Read here: Government of Afghanistan releases the first 100 Taliban prisoners)
“All the achievements we have made in the last 18 years did not exist in the era of the TalibanIn a statement on Tuesday, the Taliban claimed that in 2001 the United States “arrogantly rejected” their calls for negotiations and decided to launch a “brutal invasion.”
“The United States, its allies and coalitions would have … escaped infamy and war crimes as well as great human and material losses,” they added, assuring that they hope to create a “sovereign Islamic government.”
Zia-ul-Rahman, a former insurgent who fought foreign troops and Afghan government forces for four years, told AFP that the Taliban were pushing for “establish an Islamic system”, although the Constitution of the country already gives primacy to religion.
“We have no problem with girls having an education or women working, but they have to wear a hijab”added. America’s involvement in Afghanistan has cost it more than $ 1 trillion and the deaths of some 2,400 soldiers, in a war that the Pentagon said is at a standstill.
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In Doha, the Taliban and the Afghan government are barely trying to find a common code before they can tackle the issues of the negotiations, which could last for years.
Some US lawmakers said they would oppose any deal that does not protect women and minorities, but the administration of President Donald Trump said it does not want to get involved in the issues that need to be agreed. “among Afghans”.
In Kabul, Jawed Rahmani, a 38-year-old man working in the security field, believes that the US withdrawal would inevitably lead to the Taliban conquering Afghanistan.
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“These are not peace talks, but an agreement to hand over the next government to the Taliban,” He says. “People are happier with what we have now, compared to the dark age of the Taliban.”