Afghanistan marks 1 year since Taliban seizure as concerns mount

KABUL – The Taliban on Monday marked a year since their capture of the Afghan capital Kabul, a quick takeover that prompted a hasty flight by the nation’s Western-backed leaders, sent the economy into a tailspin and fundamentally transformed the country.

Bearded Taliban fighters, some raising guns or the white banners of their movement, staged small victory parades on foot, bicycles and motorbikes in the streets of the capital. A small group marched past the former US embassy chanting “Long live Islam” and “Death America”.

A year after the dramatic day, a lot has changed in Afghanistan. The former insurgents are fighting for the government and remain isolated internationally. The economic downturn has pushed millions more Afghans into poverty and even starvation as the flow of foreign aid has slowed to a trickle.

Meanwhile, hardliners appear to dominate the Taliban-led government, which severely restricted girls’ and women’s access to education and jobs, despite initial promises to the contrary. A year later, teenage girls are still barred from school and women are required to cover themselves from head to toe in public, with only their eyes showing.

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Some are trying to find ways to prevent a generation of young women from stalling in education and springing up underground private schools.

A year ago, thousands of Afghans rushed to Kabul International Airport to flee amid the Taliban the chaotic withdrawal of the US military from Kabul after 20 years of war – America’s longest conflict.

Some flights resumed relatively quickly after those chaotic days. On Monday, a handful of commercial flights were scheduled to land and take off from an airstrip where Afghan men clung to the wheels of planes taking off last summer, some falling to their deaths.

Schoolyards were empty on Monday as the Taliban announced a public holiday to mark the day, which they call “the proud day of August 15” and the “first anniversary of the return to power.”

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“Trust in God and support of the people has brought the country this great victory and freedom,” wrote Abdul Wahid Rayan, head of the Taliban-run Bakhtar News Agency. “Today, August 15, marks the victory of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan against America and the occupation of Afghanistan by its allies.”

On the eve of the anniversary, former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani defended his decision to flee in a split second, saying he wanted to avoid the humiliation of surrendering to insurgents. He told CNN that on the morning of August 15, 2021, he was the last in the presidential palace with the Taliban outside Kabul after his guards disappeared.

Tomas Niklasson, the European Union’s special envoy for Afghanistan, said the bloc of nations remains committed to the Afghan people and “stability, prosperity and sustainable peace in Afghanistan and the region”.

“This requires an inclusive political process with full, equal and meaningful participation of all Afghan men and women and respect for human rights,” wrote Niklasson.

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Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said international responsibility towards Afghanistan would remain after the NATO withdrawal.

“A regime that tramples on human rights cannot be recognized under any circumstances,” she said in a statement. “But we must not forget the people of Afghanistan even a year after the Taliban took over.”

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Faiez reported from Islamabad.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/08/15/afghanistan-marks-1-year-since-taliban-seizure-as-woes-mount/ Afghanistan marks 1 year since Taliban seizure as concerns mount

Sarah Y. Kim

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