Kabul, Aug 16: The first day of what the Taliban calls the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ saw Kabul, a bustling metropolis of six million, turn into a slow, male-dominated city without police or traffic controls and with shuttered businesses everywhere.
A city that only 48 hours ago was jam-packed with cars and hundreds of people lining up outside banks, visa processing offices and travel agencies, has come to a near standstill, Al Jazeera reported.
Remnants of the Western-backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, built over 20 years of international support, linger. The dividers and K9 cages of police checkpoints are still standing, but unmanned.
The giant explosives scanners still stand, but with no one to operate them. Streets leading to the airport road were jammed with no traffic police to direct people.
The most glaring difference is the city’s new inhabitants: Taliban fighters who have come from all over the nation’s 34 provinces.
They could be seen proudly waving their black-on-white flag and displaying their guns from the very four-wheel drives that used to be sent across the country to hunt them down, the report said.
But there was one glaring difference between these men and their predecessors — each held a smartphone and was busy taking selfies with murals of the nation’s one-hundredth independence celebration behind them.
“We are here to serve the people,” said Ahmad, who had come from the eastern province of Maidan Wardak and gave only one name.
Ahmad and his half-a-dozen friends were more than happy to pose for pictures and take selfies with eager passersby.
One even specifically took out his gun and held it out in front of a young man’s Galaxy phone.
“Of course, you can take a picture. Take as many as you want,” the group of Taliban fighters told Al Jazeera.
Ahmad said he arrived with a convoy from Arghandai, about 40 minutes from the city, at about 3 am on Monday. He and his men were sent as part of the Taliban’s efforts to control any possible looting and other crimes after the police and other security forces seemingly absconded.
“It was madness. No one was on the street, no police, nothing,” he said of the early morning hours in Kabul.
He claimed that when they arrived at a police station, they found bags of heroin they accuse the police of dealing in.
Though the claim could not be independently verified, residents of cities like Kabul have long accused the police of involvement in or complacency towards the nation’s drug trade.
There have not been any verified reports of Taliban searches or seizures in Kabul. However, residents speaking to Al Jazeera from Kandahar and Herat last week had said that they had seen Taliban fighters entering the homes of people suspected of being involved with the former Kabul administration or international forces.
Ahmad said: “The only thing we will do is to ask anyone who has a weapon to turn them over to the government,” something that may not sit well with many Afghans, especially those who had joined uprisings to fight the group’s advance over the last several months.
On Sunday, there were social media images of beauty salons painting over the images of women on their windows, something that would not have been allowed in the first place during the Taliban’s rule between 1996 and 2001, but the group itself did not seem to make an effort to hide any images that may run counter to their conservative beliefs.
Gyms still had pictures of muscular shirtless men, a hospital’s poster of an Indian female doctor was untouched. Likewise, images of Abdul Razeq, the Kandahar police chief deeply hated by the Taliban, were not taken down, nor were banners and flags commemorating the upcoming Shia holy day of Ashoura.
As the day wore on, more people started to come out on the city’s streets, including women, and restaurants and shops started to open. Women could be seen coming out dressed normally.