Adding insult to injury, the Taliban ridiculed the United States and its calamitous military withdrawal from Afghanistan by parading coffins draped with American, British, French and NATO flags in the eastern city of Khost on Tuesday.
It was a moment of comparative levity for members of the harsh Islamic group that once again rules Afghanistan. Fighters and supporters held guns aloft, waved Taliban flags and took cellphone photos in celebration of the ouster of U.S. and Western military forces after 20 years in-country.
The image of joyous, gloating Taliban fighters openly delighting in the hasty and humiliating exit of America and its allies provoked ire on social media.
— FJ (@Natsecjeff) August 31, 2021
Of course, we will form the government but let us complete more important tasks such as staging a mock funeral of the US and the NATO first.
Taliban being Taliban. pic.twitter.com/LEuW8Nr4JE
— Sonam Mahajan (@AsYouNotWish) August 31, 2021
Despite hints of modernity at the mock funeral — in the form of cellphones — conventional wisdom is the Taliban will reimpose its strict interpretation of Islamic law on the people of Afghanistan now that the U.S. military is gone.
That includes rolling back hard-won rights for women, prohibiting men from shaving their beards, banning smoking and drinking, outlawing music and television and seeking reprisals against those who worked with America and its allies over the last two decades.
“There will be no democratic system at all because it does not have any base in our country. We will not discuss what type of political system should we apply in Afghanistan because it is clear. It is sharia law and that is it,” Taliban commander Waheedullah Hashimi said in an interview with Reuters.
Experts on the subject are skeptical that means anything good for the people of Afghanistan, especially women and girls, who now face the prospect of mandatory burqa-wearing, forced marriages and vastly reduced opportunities to get an education.
“There is no chance that the existing freedoms, at least as they existed on paper in the Constitution … will be preserved,” Brookings Institution researcher Vanda Felbab-Brown said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia.”
The situation is fairly bleak, according to her.
“We are clearly looking at a significant reduction in political, social freedoms for all actors — not just women, but particularly for women,” Felbab-Brown said.
She is skeptical of Taliban claims to the contrary.
“The Taliban spokesman has continued to pledge respect for women’s rights, but his claims ring more hollow than ever,” she said.
The prospect of a difficult future for the people of Afghanistan notwithstanding, right now the Taliban is reveling in its victory.
“August 31 is our formal Freedom Day. On this day, American occupying forces and NATO forces fled the country,” Taliban official Qari Saeed Khosti said in an interview with local television station Zhman TV covering the mock funeral, Reuters reported.
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