The Taliban were set to announce the first members of their new government on Tuesday, in a move that would bolster their power over Afghanistan just days after a chaotic withdrawal of US troops.
The Islamist hardliners, who invaded Kabul on August 15 after a lightning offensive that decimated the former Afghan army, have promised a more moderate form of rule than during their first stint in power in 1996-2001.
But Tuesday saw Taliban fighters firing shots into the air to disperse hundreds of people gathered at various rallies in Kabul in a sign of Afghans’ resistance to the movement, remembered for their brutal and repressive government.
“It was agreed that we would announce a new government before a formal ceremony could be held,” Ahmadullah Wasiq said, adding that “some members” of the cabinet would be announced at a press conference later Tuesday.
The announcement came hours after at least three demonstrations were held across Kabul in a show of resistance that would have been unimaginable during the last Taliban regime – when people were publicly executed and thieves had their hands chopped off.
‘We are tired’
“Afghan women want their country to be free. They want their country to be rebuilt. We are tired,” protester Sarah Fahim told AFP at a rally outside the Pakistan embassy, where more than 70 people, mostly women, had gathered.
“We want all our people to have normal lives. How long will we live in this situation?” said the 25-year-old.
The crowd held up banners chanting their frustrations over security, free passage out of the country and alleged meddling by Pakistan – which historically has close ties to the Taliban leadership.
Pakistan, one of only three countries to recognize the last Taliban government, has long been accused of providing its leaders with a safe haven after they were ousted from power by the US-led invasion of 2001.
Pakistani intelligence chief Faiz Hameed was in Kabul this weekend, reportedly to be briefed by his country’s ambassador, but is also likely to have met with Taliban officials.
Videos posted on social media of a separate demonstration showed more than 100 people marching through the streets under the watchful eye of armed Taliban members.
Another protester, Zahra Mohammadi, a doctor from Kabul, said: “We want Afghanistan to be free. We want freedom.”
In recent days there have also been scattered demonstrations in smaller towns, including Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif, where women have demanded to be part of a new government.
General Mobin, a Taliban official responsible for security in the capital, told AFP he had been called to the scene by Taliban guards who said “women were causing a disturbance”.
“These protesters have only been gathered on the basis of the conspiracy of foreign intelligence agencies,” he claimed.
An Afghan journalist covering the demonstration told AFP that his press ID and camera had been seized by the Taliban.
“I was kicked and told to leave,” he said.
Later, the Kabul-based Afghan Independent Journalists Association said 14 journalists – Afghan and foreign – were detained briefly during the protests before being released.
Footage shared online showed reporters with cuts and bruises on their hands and knees.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban had reiterated a promise to release Afghans from Afghanistan.
The Taliban told the United States that “they will release people with travel documents free,” Blinken said at a press conference in Doha where he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met their Qatari counterparts.
US President Joe Biden is under mounting pressure amid reports that hundreds of people, including Americans, have been prevented from flying out of an airport in northern Afghanistan for a week.
Tuesday’s demonstrations come after the Taliban claimed full control of Afghanistan the day before and said they had won the main battle of the Panjshir Valley.
After their lightning-quick victory over the former Afghan government’s security forces in mid-August and the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years of war, the Taliban turned to fighting resistance forces defending the mountainous region.
In a press conference on Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warned of further attempts to rebel against their rule.
“Anyone who tries to start an uprising will be hit hard. We will not allow another one,” he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)