The Taliban cracked down on protests that erupted in at least four cities in Afghanistan on Thursday and rounded up opponents despite promises of amnesty, even as fearful workers stayed home and thousands of people continued a frenzied rush to leave the country.
Even as the Taliban moved to assert control, hundreds of protesters took to the streets for a second day to rally against their rule, this time marching in Kabul, the capital, as well as other cities. Again, the Taliban met them with force, using gunfire and beatings to disperse crowds. And again the actions of Taliban foot soldiers undermined the leadership’s suggestions that, having taken power, they would moderate the brutality they have long been known for.
The police officers who served the old government have melted away, and instead armed Taliban fighters are operating checkpoints and directing traffic, administering their notions of justice as they see fit, with little consistency from one to another.
according to witnesses and a security assessment prepared for the United Nations. Though the Taliban have said there would be no reprisals, there have been arrests, property seizures and scattered reports of reprisal killings.
city after city with remarkable speed once most U.S. forces had withdrawn, brushed aside the demoralized and disorganized Afghan security forces, and swept into Kabul on Sunday. Now they are learning that while conquest may have been swift, governing a vibrant, freethinking society is not so easy.
The anti-Taliban protests have been a remarkable display of defiance of a group that has a long history of controlling communities through fear and meeting dissent with lethal force. The protests also offered evidence that while tens of thousands are now seeking escape, some of those left behind would try — for now, at least — to have a voice in the country’s direction, despite the growing crackdown.
independence from Britain in 1919. It was not clear whether the victims had been shot or had died in a stampede.
There were even demonstrators waving the flag in Kandahar, the southern city that is considered the birthplace of the Taliban. In the southeastern city of Khost, the group imposed a curfew, a day after demonstrations and clashes there. The protests on Thursday in Kabul included one near the presidential palace, and another that drew about 200 people before the Taliban used force to break it up.
The events, led primarily by young men and women, were a wholly new experience for Taliban insurgents who have spent the last 20 years mostly in the mountains and rural districts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — the same name they used a generation ago.
The tricolor flag flown by the collapsed government, taken down by the Taliban and replaced by their own banner, has become a repeated flash point, with people in multiple cities beaten for displaying it. On Wednesday, the Taliban fired on demonstrators waving the flag in the eastern city of Jalalabad, with reports of two or three people killed.
she said on Twitter.
She added that after the Taliban spokesman’s first news briefing, held on Tuesday, when he insisted that the rights of the media and women would be respected, she had not expected much good to come.
“I had low expectations but now it has become clear that there is a gap between action and words,” Ms. Atakpal said.
Residents of Kabul were feeling their way under the new regime gingerly. The streets were quiet, largely empty of traffic, interrupted by occasional bursts of gunfire and the roar of American military planes patrolling and conducting the round-the-clock evacuation.
their origin story and their record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be.
What happens to the women of Afghanistan? The last time the Taliban were in power, they barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. Afghan women have made many gains since the Taliban were toppled, but now they fear that ground may be lost. Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different, but there are signs that, at least in some areas, they have begun to reimpose the old order.
One woman complained that popular Turkish television serials were no longer airing, after cable companies closed down their services. The Taliban, which banned all television during their previous time in power, have since embraced media as a propaganda tool, and cable companies were already anticipating new rules on morally acceptable content in accordance with the militants’ strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Mr. Shesta said he was deleting photos from his cellphone of him meeting with the former president, Ashraf Ghani, and other government officials, many of whom have fled the country. Mr. Ghani left the capital on Sunday, and several of his senior officials traveled to Turkey on Monday.
At the Kabul airport, which is still controlled by U.S. troops, the Taliban are in charge outside its blast walls and used force and intimidation to control access, beating people back and firing their rifles.
Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, cited multiple reports that the Taliban had a list of people to question and punish, as well as their locations. Military and police personnel and people who worked for investigative units of the toppled government were particularly at risk, according to the document, which was dated Wednesday.
Already, the Taliban were going door to door and “arresting and/or threatening to kill or arrest family members of target individuals unless they surrender themselves to the Taliban,” said the document, which was seen by The New York Times.
It contained a reproduced letter dated Aug. 16 from the Taliban to an unnamed counterterrorism official in Afghanistan who had worked with U.S. and British officials and then gone into hiding.
The letter instructed the official to report to the Military and Intelligence Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Kabul. If not, it warned, the official’s family members “will be treated based on Shariah law.”
Victor J. Blue, Helene Cooper and Jim Huylebroek contributed reporting.
KABUL, Afghanistan — For the first time since retaking power in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s leaders on Tuesday sketched out what their control of the country could look like, promising peace at home and urging the world to look past their history of violence and repression.
“We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield anymore — from today onward, war is over,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s longtime chief spokesman, in a news conference in Kabul, the capital.
Mr. Mujahid, a high-ranking leader, said the Taliban had declared a blanket amnesty, vowing no reprisals against former enemies. And the group has in some places appealed to civil servants — including women — to continue to go to work.
After days of uncertainty around the world over Afghanistan’s swift fall to a group notorious for its brutality, Mr. Mujahid’s words, delivered in a restrained tone, were a glimpse into a Taliban desire to portray themselves as ready to join the international mainstream.
frenzied rush to Kabul’s airport, which continued to be a scene of mass desperation and chaos two days after the Taliban entered the city. The group said its fighters were acting to restore order, but in some corners, they were also inflicting fear.
target of violence by the Taliban and other militants. Despite rampant fear about the Taliban’s intentions, the reporters directly challenged Mr. Mujahid’s promises.
“Do you think the people of Afghanistan will forgive you?” one reporter asked, noting the long campaign of Taliban bombings and attacks that claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives. Another noted that Mr. Mujahid sat in the same spot occupied until last week by a government spokesman who was assassinated by the Taliban.
Mr. Mujahid, responding patiently, allowed that civilian deaths had been “unfortunate,” but said such were the fortunes of war. “Our families also suffered,” he added.
chaos at the airport, where U.S. troops shot and killed at least two people on Monday and others fell to their deaths trying to cling to a U.S. military transport as it took off, there were reports of several more deaths on Tuesday. Tens of thousands of people have flooded the airport in waves, trying their luck for a flight to anywhere.
While American troops controlled a large part of the airport, the Taliban took control of the approaches to it, and at times beat people with rifle butts and clubs to force back the crowds trying to get in. It was not always clear whether they were attempting to prevent people from reaching the airport, or simply prevent another lethal crush.
President Biden faced mounting criticism in Washington, including from fellow Democrats, over the stunning lack of preparation for the lightning advance of the Taliban and the collapse of government resistance, leading to confused and halting efforts to get Americans and their Afghan allies out of the country. Republicans said Mr. Biden was in too much of a hurry to withdraw U.S. forces, although he had postponed the date set by President Trump, who struck a deal with the Taliban.
“We didn’t need to be in this position; we didn’t need to be seeing these scenes at Kabul airport with our Afghan friends climbing a C-17,” said Representative Jason Crow, a Democrat of Colorado and a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan.
declared on Twitter.
The Taliban attempted on Tuesday to project an image of being a force for stability, while tapping into the feared reputation their law enforcement and intelligence services acquired before the group was driven from power in 2001 by a U.S.-led invasion. The Taliban intelligence chief for Kabul made a statement telling looters that his group was watching and making arrests.
treatment of women and girls under a resurgent Taliban has been one of the most acute concerns raised by their opponents in Afghanistan and by international rights groups.
“There will be no violence against women, no prejudice against woman,” Mr. Mujahid said Tuesday. But his assurances were vague. Women, he said, would be allowed to work and study and study “within the bounds of Islamic law.”
Similarly, he said the new Taliban needs and wants a free and independent press, which the old Taliban never tolerated — as long as it upholds Islamic and national values.
Mujib Mashal reported from Kabul, and Richard Perez-Peña from New York. Carlotta Gall and Ruhallah Khapalwak contributed reporting.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two more major cities in western and southern Afghanistan were on the verge of collapse to the Taliban on Thursday night, as the insurgency’s race to seize control of the country accelerated.
With the Taliban’s sudden gains in Kandahar, in the country’s southern Pashtun heartland, and Herat, a vital cultural and economic hub, the insurgents appear to be nearing a complete military takeover. Only four major cities — including the capital, Kabul — remain under government control, and two of them are under siege by the Taliban.
Over the past week, the Taliban have toppled city after city in a stunning advance that has well positioned the insurgents to attack Kabul. It has also laid bare the Afghan security forces’ near complete collapse less than three weeks before the United States is set to completely withdraw. Some American officials fear the Afghan government will implode within 30 days, and are preparing for an evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
The insurgents now control well over half of the country’s 400-odd districts. And with the fall of Kandahar and Herat, along with another provincial capital south of Kabul, Ghazni, and one in the northwest, Qala-e-Naw — all on Thursday — the insurgents will control 13 provincial capitals.
eeking assurances from the Taliban that they will not attack the embassy if the insurgents overrun the capital, two American officials said.
Afghan security forces, exhausted and overstretched by the Taliban’s advance, are giving up across the country. On Wednesday, an entire Afghan army corps in the northern city Kunduz surrendered to Taliban fighters, who had seized control of the city a few days before. They handed over their weapons and vehicles to the insurgents and ceded control of the city’s airport, officials said.
As the Taliban have pressed on their brutal offensive, thousands of displaced people have flocked to Kabul, one of the last islands of government control not yet under siege. Hundreds of thousands of others have been trapped between fighting in city streets and airstrikes from the sky.
“Every second here I am concerned, I am crying,” said Humaira Jahion, 47, who fled to Kabul from the northern city Kunduz hours before it fell to the Taliban on Sunday.
For two nights she sheltered in her home with her seven children, afraid to leave after a mortar landed half a block from her house. Now, thinking about her family’s future as she crowded in with hundreds of others in a makeshift shelter, a look of anguish washed over her face.
“There is no future here,” she said. “There is no future for me and there is no future for my children.”
Asadullah Timory, Najim Rahim, Jim Huylebroek and Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.
KABUL, Afghanistan — On Saturday, the final day of a three-day national cease-fire for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Muslim celebration marking the end of fasting after the holy month of Ramadan, the killings in Afghanistan kept coming.
A Kabul traffic policeman was murdered Saturday morning, a day after a bombing at a Kabul mosque during Friday prayers killed 12 civilians, including the imam. A roadside bomb in Kandahar killed five civilians Thursday, among them three children. An explosion outside a shop in Kunduz that day killed two civilians, including a child.
But in this country, those scattered attacks represented a respite of sorts from the much more frequent and deadlier ones that have dominated for most of the year. Afghans took advantage, braving perilous city streets and provincial roadways to visit family members for sumptuous Eid al-Fitr feasts and celebrations.
This was the fourth such cease-fire since 2018, but the first with American and NATO troops withdrawing after two decades of war, leaving Afghans facing an ever more uncertain and unsettled future. The cease-fire came at a time of high anxiety, with terrified Afghans continuing to flee the country and Western embassies warning their own citizens to leave, too.
provincial director of an Afghan human rights commission was waylaid on the same highway and shot to death.
When Ms. Matin and her family approached the same area, Jalrez — known locally as “Death Valley” — she said she instructed her nephews, age 4 and 7, to stay absolutely quiet. The car radio was turned off.
“Everyone was silent — no one even breathed,” she said. She described Taliban gunmen on the roadside, “with their guns, long hair and eye makeup, they were everywhere.” But their car was allowed to pass in deference to the cease-fire, she said.
Mohammad Damishyar, a schoolteacher who lives in Bamian, rebuffed warnings from relatives to stay off the roads, even during the cease-fire. On Thursday, the first day of the cease-fire, he rode in a crowded taxi on a daylong drive through Taliban-controlled areas to celebrate Eid with relatives in Baghlan Province in northern Afghanistan.
data compiled by The New York Times.
30,000 Taliban fighters were permitted to wander through government-controlled cities, embracing soldiers and police, visiting tourist spots and eating ice cream.
In announcing this year’s cease-fire on May 9, the Taliban expressly forbade such encounters.
“The Mujahedeen must not visit enemy areas nor permit entrance of enemy personnel into Mujahedeen controlled areas,” the Taliban statement said.
The Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani said its forces would comply with the cease-fire but reserved the right to defend against any enemy attack.
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — On the morning of May 1, an Afghan transport aircraft landed at this sprawling military base in the country’s south. It was loaded with mortar shells, small-arms cartridges and 250-pound bombs to supply Afghan troops under frequent attack by the Taliban in the countryside.
Later, at midnight, a gray American C-130 transport aircraft taxied down the same runway, marking the end of the first official day of the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The cargo plane was filled with munitions, a giant flat screen television from a C.I.A. base (known as Camp Gecko), pallets of equipment, and — in the real signal of the impending end of a long occupation — departing American troops. It was one of several aircraft that night removing what remained of the American war here.
Afghans continue fighting and dying with fleeting hopes of peace even while the Americans leave, adhering to a timeline laid out by President Biden to fully withdraw by Sept 11. The decision was opposed by his generals but begrudgingly stenciled on whiteboards in U.S. bases across Afghanistan, such as Kandahar Airfield, a former Soviet base that has been one of the Americans’ largest.
NATO troops were based here, and many more passed through as it became the main installation for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan’s south. It stood beside rural villages from which the Taliban emerged; throughout it all, the province has remained an insurgent stronghold.
Now, half-demolished outdoor gyms and empty hangars were filled with nearly 20 years’ worth of matériel. The passenger terminal, where troops once transited between different parts of the war, was pitch black and filled with empty, dust-covered chairs. A fire alarm detector — its batteries weak — chirped incessantly. The mess halls were shuttered.
The boardwalk was nothing more than a few remaining boards.
The American withdrawal, almost quiet, and with a veneer of orderliness, belies the desperate circumstances just beyond the base’s wall. On one end of Kandahar Airfield that day, Maj. Mohammed Bashir Zahid, an officer in charge of a small Afghan air command center, sat in his office, a phone to each ear and a third in his hands as he typed messages on WhatsApp, trying to get air support for Afghan security forces on the ground and in nearby outposts threatened by Taliban fighters.
flight of F/A-18 fighter jets, stationed aboard the U.S.S. Eisenhower, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, were in the air, making their way toward Afghanistan from the Arabian Sea — a roughly two-hour flight up what is called “the boulevard,” a corridor of airspace in western Pakistan that serves as an air transit route.
Having received approval to strike, the jets swooped in, dropping a GPS-guided munition — a bomb that costs well over $10,000 — on the additional rockets that were somewhere in Kandahar, mounted on rudimentary rails and aimed at the airfield.
Inside the American headquarters building at the airfield, two Green Berets — part of the shrinking contingent who work there now — pulled up the video of the afternoon airstrike on one of their phones.
“Make sure that goes in the nightly brief,” one of them said. The Special Forces soldiers, bearded and clad in T-shirts, ball caps and tattoos, looked out of place among what was left of the cubicles and office furniture around them, much of which was being torn apart.
Televisions had been removed from walls, office printers sat on the curb, the insignia once plastered on the stone wall that heralded who was in charge of the headquarters, long gone. Even though there would soon be fewer and fewer service members around each day, one soldier noted that the flow of care packages from random Americans had not slowed down. He now possessed what seemed like an infinite supply of Pop-Tarts.
A group of American soldiers, tasked with loading an incoming cargo flight didn’t know when they were going home. Tomorrow? Sept. 11? Their job was to close Kandahar before moving on to the next U.S. base, but there were only so many installations left to dismantle. A trio of them played Nintendo while they waited. One talked about the dirt bike he was going to buy when he got home. Another traded cryptocurrency on his iPhone.
When asked about Maiwand, a district only about 50 miles away where Afghan forces were trying to fend off a Taliban offensive and Major Zahid was desperately trying to send air support, a U.S. soldier responded, “Who’s Maiwand?”
In the evening, the base loudspeaker chimed as one of the transport planes departed. “Attention,” someone out of view said. “There will be outgoing for the next 15 minutes.” The dull thud of mortar fire began. At what was unclear.
The end of the war looked nothing like the beginning of it. What started as an operation to topple the Taliban and kill the terrorists responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, had swelled over 20 years into a multitrillion-dollar military-industrial undertaking, infused with so much money that for years it seemed impossible to ever conclude or dismantle.
The Taliban’s often-repeated adage loomed over the day: “You have the watches, we have the time.”
In one of the many trash bags littering the base, there was a discarded wall clock, its second hand still ticking.
Najim Rahim and Jim Huylebroek contributed reporting.
KABUL, Afghanistan — On the eve of a symbolic date for America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, a truck laden with explosives blew up outside a guesthouse south of the capital on Friday night, killing at least 27 people.
If the blast was the work of the Taliban — there was no immediate claim of responsibility, though the Afghan government quickly blamed the insurgents — it would be the most overt signal yet that the deal the Americans reached with the group at Doha in February 2020 is off.
A secret annex to that deal bars the Taliban from conducting suicide attacks, and they had been in sharp decline until Friday. Instead, the Taliban has maneuvered over the past year to test gray areas of the agreement, by carrying out, for example, targeted assassinations of journalists, officials and intellectuals.
There has been a steady drumbeat of these; on Saturday morning, a Kabul University professor was fatally shot in Kabul. And there has been no letup in attacks on Afghan security forces; dozens have been killed in recent weeks.
But Friday night’s attack in Logar province, with its heavy toll, appeared to represent a deliberate shift in tactics. The driver of the truck blew himself up in an attack that also killed numerous students from rural areas who had been staying at the facility before university entrance exams, officials said. The guesthouse belonged to the family of a prominent member of the Afghan senate, himself recently assassinated by the Taliban.
Dozens of people were buried under the rubble of the obliterated guesthouse in the provincial capital of Pul-e Alam, about 40 miles south of Kabul, and over 100 more were wounded.
The blast occurred just before a May 1 deadline agreed to last year by the Taliban and U.S. officials that was aimed at ending America’s 20-year military presence in Afghanistan.
The U.S. scrapped the May 1 date two weeks ago when President Biden prolonged the American planned withdrawal until Sept. 11. That extension angered the Taliban, who vowed there would be consequences if the U.S. didn’t fully comply with the February 2020 deal.
The Taliban has often said that an American military presence after May 1 would represent a violation of the Doha agreement, and has threatened to attack U.S. forces in response.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said on Twitter on Saturday that “this violation in principle has opened the way” for his side’s forces “to take every counter-action it deems appropriate against the occupying forces.”
The Taliban’s own website made no mention of the blast in Pul-e Alam Saturday, merely saying that “7 puppets were killed when Mujahideen raided an enemy post” there — “puppets” being the group’s preferred term for government troops.
Whether Friday night’s deadly blast was retaliation against Mr. Biden’s extension was unclear Saturday. U.S. troops have already started to leave the country, and American bases are being dismantled.
The Afghan government, ever eager to portray the Taliban as faithless to the group’s agreement with the Americans, lost no time Saturday in pinning the blame on the Islamist insurgent group.
“These people were preparing for the university entrance exam when the Taliban attacked them,” Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s national security adviser, said on Saturday. “For the Taliban, every single Afghan is a target.”
The country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, held the Taliban “responsible for this massive killing of the Muslim people of Afghanistan,” which he said was “against God and against the people.”
The blast occurred just as Afghans were breaking their daylong Ramadan fast. The driver of the truck apparently pulled up to the guesthouse, officials said, claiming to bring supplies for the breaking of the fast.
Just as he did so, the truck exploded, bringing down the roof and destroying the building. Photographs on the Tolo News website showed rescuers searching the rubble in the dark for survivors.
In another sign of faltering government resistance and of the Taliban’s steady encroachment on Afghan cities, the insurgents overran an army base at the edge of the provincial capital of Ghazni on Friday night, capturing 25 soldiers.
Also Saturday, in the south, at Kandahar Airfield, a sprawling facility where a small contingent of NATO and American forces were dismantling what remains of their base there, the Taliban ushered in May 1 with an early afternoon rocket attack.
The U.S. military responded immediately to the rocket attack with an airstrike on a Taliban position, a Defense official said.
Fahim Abed and Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul, Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed from Kandahar, and Farooq Jan Mangal contributed from Khost.