Taleban fighters patrol in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. PHOTO: AP
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AP) — The Taleban celebrated Afghanistan’s Independence Day yesterday by declaring they beat the United States (US), but challenges to their rule ranging from running a country severely short on cash and bureaucrats to potentially facing an armed opposition began to emerge.
With many ATMs out of cash and worries about rising food prices in this nation of 38 million people reliant on imports, the Taleban face all the challenges of the civilian government they dethroned without the level of international aid it enjoyed.
Meanwhile, opposition figures gathering in the last area of the country not under Taleban rule talked of launching an armed resistance under the banner of the Northern Alliance, which allied with the US during the 2001 invasion.
Still, it was not clear how serious a threat they posed given that the militants overran nearly the entire country in a matter of days with little resistance from Afghan forces. Many fear the Taleban will succeed in erasing two decades of efforts to expand women’s and human rights in Afghanistan and remake the country.
The Taleban so far have offered no specifics on how they will lead. They are in talks with senior officials of previous Afghan governments. But they face an increasingly precarious situation.
“A humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions is unfolding before our eyes,” warned Head of the World Food Programme in Afghanistan Mary Ellen McGroarty. Beyond the difficulties of importing food, she said that drought has seen over 40 per cent of the country’s crop lost. Many who fled the Taleban advance now live in parks and open spaces in Kabul.
“This is really Afghanistan’s hour of greatest need, and we urge the international community to stand by the Afghan people at this time,” she said.
Yetserday marked Afghanistan’s Independence Day, which commemorates the 1919 treaty that ended British rule in the central Asian nation. “Fortunately, today we are celebrating the anniversary of independence from Britain,” the Taleban said.
“We at the same time as a result of our resistance forced another arrogant power of the world, the United States, to fail and retreat from our holy territory of Afghanistan.”
Unacknowledged by the insurgents, however, was their violent suppression of a protest on Wednesday in the eastern city of Jalalabad, which saw demonstrators lower the Taleban’s flag and replace it with Afghanistan’s tricolour. At least one person was killed.
In Khost province, Taleban authorities instituted a 24-hour curfew after violently breaking up a similar protest, according to information obtained by journalists monitoring from abroad. The militants did not immediately acknowledge the demonstration or the curfew.
They have urged people to return to work, but most government officials remain in hiding in their homes or are attempting to flee the Taleban. Questions remain over Afghanistan’s USD9 billion in foreign reserves, the vast majority now apparently frozen in the US.
The head of the country’s Central Bank warned that the supply of physical US dollars is “close to zero”, which will batter the currency, the afghani, and raise the prices of much-needed food.