By Ayesha Tanzeem and Ayaz Gul
The Taliban are continuing to consolidate power in Afghanistan amid reports of violence against protesters in the eastern part of the country, a day after the Islamist group announced the “war is over” and there would be no retribution.
Witnesses say Taliban insurgents fired into the air and beat people with batons in the city of Jalalabad, where a group of demonstrators tried to take down a Taliban flag and replace it with the Afghan national flag Wednesday. At least three people were killed and many other injured. The Taliban did not comment on the matter.
The Taliban on Tuesday vowed to respect women’s rights “within Islamic law” and form an “inclusive Islamic” government.
Britain and the United States say they will work with other nations to develop a coordinated strategy for Afghanistan, and that when it comes to the Taliban’s pledges for how it will operate, the group’s actions are ultimately what matter.
“We will judge this regime based on the choices it makes, and by its actions rather than by its words, on its attitude to terrorism, to crime and narcotics, as well as humanitarian access, and the rights of girls to receive an education,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told members of parliament Wednesday.
Johnson spoke by phone with U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday. A White House statement said the leaders “discussed the need for continued close coordination among allies and democratic partners on Afghanistan policy going forward, including ways the global community can provide further humanitarian assistance and support for refugees and other vulnerable Afghans.” They agreed to hold a meeting of G-7 leaders next week to discuss the situation.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday that the international community expects the Taliban to “meet their obligations to the basic human rights and human dignity of people.” He said the Biden administration would directly communicate to the Taliban “both what the costs and disincentives are for certain types of action and what our expectations are.”
The situation around the Afghan capital, Kabul, continued to remain calm Wednesday, days after the Taliban took control of the city. Traffic had increased from Sunday when streets were nearly deserted. More women were visible on the streets Wednesday but most of them were either old women or very young girls.
The normal crowd of young Afghan women on the streets or in cafes in Kabul’s chic areas was missing. The women were more covered than was normal for Kabul before the Taliban takeover. Men were also wearing the local dress, shalwar kameez.
The Taliban ruled the country with a strict interpretation of the Quran and Sharia law as it held power from 1996 until 2001 when a U.S.-led invasion ousted the group in response to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.
Fears about a return to that style of rule, along with reprisals against those who worked for aid groups or foreign military forces, have prompted crowds of civilians in Kabul to seek evacuation along with foreign diplomats and other foreign nationals.
After a chaotic start that included several deaths and the halting of flights Monday, evacuations continued Wednesday with the United States saying it wanted to boost the number of people it is flying out of Afghanistan each day to between 5,000 and 9,000.
A White House official said as of Tuesday night, the U.S. had evacuated more than 3,200 people.
Germany is conducting its own evacuation campaign, including its nationals, human rights activists and Afghans who worked with foreign forces. The first of Germany’s flights landed early Wednesday in Frankfurt, airline Lufthansa said.
Both Germany and the United States were sending more troops to the airport to help with the evacuation effort.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday a flight carrying 25 French nationals and 184 Afghans landed in Abu Dhabi.
Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag tweeted that the first two flights carrying people back to her country had left Kabul, and that officials were working with allies to coordinate future evacuations.