Young Afghan Taliban fighters face the challenge of peace

The generation of young Taliban fighters who conquered Kabul have gone through the euphoria of victory to face an uncertain future as the country they won after two decades of war sinks deeper into economic crisis .

Most have only experienced fighting and while their memories of the battlefield can be a source of pride, they now have to adjust to a world that wants to forget about war.

For now, four months after the fall of Kabul, many still rejoice in defeating the United States and its allies after a struggle that has so long dominated their lives.

“When I started jihad against the Americans, I was 14 or 15,” said Nasratullah, 24 from Wardak province. “During this time, my brother was our group leader and I only participated in some battles. But when I was 20, I spent all my time with the Mujahedin and in combat.

Recently married, he is now a security officer at a police station in Kabul, but only had a walkie-talkie with him as he walked through a dusty cricket pitch.

“I am so delighted because we have achieved all the ambitions that we have been carrying for 20 years. “

For the people of Kabul, a city that many Taliban fighters had never seen before their victory, the first reaction to the fall of the capital was shock and fear. | REUTERS

For the people of Kabul, a city that many Taliban fighters had never seen before their victory, the first reaction to the fall of the capital was very different.

Thousands of people have been killed and maimed by Taliban suicide bombers during their long campaign to overthrow the Western-backed government and for many in Kabul the sight of long-haired fighters in the streets has been shocking. and fear.

That sentiment eased when insurgents wielding the Kalashnikov in their mix of loose traditional clothing and combat vests were replaced by uniformed security forces.

But fears of revenge against anyone associated with the former government remain, and concerns remain about what will happen to women and girls who are still largely excluded from secondary education.

Nasratullah criticized American propaganda for tarnishing the image of the Taliban.

“They used all their resources, they brainwashed people, they used all means to show us as bad people. “

For their part, the Taliban fighters have war memories that shape their outlook on the world today.

Taliban member Shafiullah, 29, holds a gun outside the border regiment in Kabul on October 23.  Shafiullah says he has been fighting the Taliban for six years.  |  REUTERS
Taliban member Shafiullah, 29, holds a gun outside the border regiment in Kabul on October 23. Shafiullah says he has been fighting the Taliban for six years. | REUTERS

Mansoor, from Maidan Wardak province, who bears the title of Mawlawi awarded to those respected for their religious knowledge, spent 14 or 15 years in the insurgency, eight of them in the infamous Bagram prison outside Kabul where many Taliban were held.

“When the Americans told me you were a prisoner, I told them those who had become the occupiers were the real detainees,” he told the red carpet police station where he now oversees the security of the 7th district of Kabul. “Prison wasn’t for me, it was for them all these years. We were physically detained, but our ideas were freer than ever.

“When I was free, I joined the fight the next day.”

“Jobs for Muslims”

But as Kabul recovers from the trauma of August to cope with a growing economic crisis, the challenge facing the Taliban was summed up by Sayed Adel, an 18-year-old madrasa student.

“We are happy to have an Islamic government, but an Islamic government must provide jobs for Muslims,” he said. “Today all Muslims are in poverty, no one can feed their family.”

After having fought the Americans, the Taliban must now seek their cooperation, in particular to release billions of dollars of funds frozen outside Afghanistan.

They must also welcome specialists who grew up under the previous government and who will now be needed for the reconstruction of the country.

“I am not a supporter of the Taliban or the previous government, I want to speak as a young person, as an Afghan citizen,” said medical student Mustafa HK, who came to Kabul as a child. after his father was killed in the southern province of Uruzgan, a Taliban stronghold.

A boy pushes a man's wheelchair on a street in Kabul on October 22.  |  REUTERS
A boy pushes a man’s wheelchair on a street in Kabul on October 22. | REUTERS

“My mother was a doctor, an obstetrician. My father was a surgeon and my cousins ​​and uncles are Taliban, ”he said.

“I hope that now the Taliban are not the same as they were 20 years ago, and now they are more focused on the economy and fighting poverty in Afghanistan.”

The international community is pressuring the Taliban to make concessions on issues such as expanding government beyond the ranks of veteran jihadists and ensuring women’s rights.

This will test the cohesion of a movement which has proven itself on the battlefield but which now faces the challenges of peace.

“There are difficulties in jihad,” Mawlawi Mansoor said. “But we appreciate the difficulties, and when we look to the past you must be feeling happy.”

Wafiullah, 15, sits on his bicycle, with an Islamic Emirate flag hanging, outside a Taliban checkpoint in Kabul.  |  REUTERS
Wafiullah, 15, sits on his bicycle, with an Islamic Emirate flag hanging, outside a Taliban checkpoint in Kabul. | REUTERS
A teacher uses a stick to wake a boy who fell asleep in a Kabul madrasa on October 26.  |  REUTERS
A teacher uses a stick to wake a boy who fell asleep in a Kabul madrasa on October 26. | REUTERS
Among Afghan citizens, fears of revenge against anyone associated with the former government persist.  |  REUTERS
Among Afghan citizens, fears of revenge against anyone associated with the former government persist. | REUTERS
Taliban member Asem, 27, holds a machine gun as he boards a van on a patrol in Kabul.  Asem says he has been a Taliban fighter for 12 years.  |  REUTERS
Taliban member Asem, 27, holds a machine gun as he boards a van on a patrol in Kabul. Asem says he has been a Taliban fighter for 12 years. | REUTERS
Children carry sacks of food past the concrete wall of a former US Army base in Kabul on October 16.  |  REUTERS
Children carry sacks of food past the concrete wall of a former US Army base in Kabul on October 16. | REUTERS

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