The Taliban on Monday marked a year since they seized the Afghan capital of Kabul, a rapid takeover that triggered a hasty escape of the nation’s Western-backed leaders, sent the economy into a tailspin and fundamentally transformed the country.
Bearded Taliban fighters, some hoisting rifles or the white banners of their movement, staged small victory parades on foot, bicycles and motorcycles in the streets of the capital. One small group marched past the former U.S. Embassy, chanting “Long live Islam” and “Death to America.”
A year after the dramatic day, much has changed in Afghanistan. The former insurgents struggle to govern and remain internationally isolated. The economic downturn has driven millions more Afghans into poverty and even hunger, as the flow of foreign aid slowed to a trickle.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack[a] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ” 1 Sam 15:1-3
Meanwhile, hard-liners appear to hold sway in the Taliban-led government, which imposed severe restrictions on access to education and jobs for girls and women, despite initial promises to the contrary. A year on, teenage girls are still barred from school and women are required to cover themselves head-to-toe in public, with only the eyes showing.
Some are trying to find ways to keep education from stalling for a generation of young women and underground schools in homes have spring up.
A year ago, thousands of Afghans had rushed to Kabul International Airport to flee the Taliban amid the U.S. military’s chaotic withdrawal 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 a runway that last summer saw Afghan men clinging to the wheels of planes taking off, some falling to their death.
Schoolyards stood empty Monday as the Taliban announced a public holiday to mark the day, which they refer to as “The Proud Day of Aug. 15” and the “First Anniversary of the Return to Power.”