New photos show Afghans forming militias as the United States withdraws its forces and the Taliban’s grip on the country tightens.
The U.S. military has withdrawn more than half its forces from the country as part of a planned full withdrawal. The pullout had sparked a security crisis as the Taliban has seized control of dozens of districts, most of them in the northern part of the country.
In Kabul, local Munisa Rashid told RFE/RL that the absence of U.S. forces in the capital is already noticeable and "in every home, in every office, between friends and family people are talking about the security situation getting worse." Rashid, who works for a World Bank-funded project in Kabul says "Some people have seen the Taliban coming near Kabul."
Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told AFP that once U.S. forces have left the country the rights of all Afghans, including women, would be upheld according to "the glorious religion of Islam" and Afghan traditions.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Islamist group brutally-enforced restrictions on women's rights to work, travel, dress, and behave. These limitations have continued to be put on people living in parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban in recent years.
Rashid says as an Afghan woman she is hopeful a deal can be made between the government and Taliban leaders but "I’m just afraid to say, I don’t know what will happen to us about education or going out of home, going to the office.… Lately life for Afghan women has grown relatively good but when the situation changes I’m sure they will lose their confidence and they will be afraid to leave the house."
In the mountains of Wardak, west of Kabul, Hazara militias made up of hundreds of men have secured the province from Taliban advances for months, but the Hazara have an uneasy relationship with government forces.
The Hazara militants have clashed with government forces in violence that echoes Afghanistan’s wars of the 1990s in which militias, divided partly along ethnic and tribal lines, fought ruinous territorial wars. Some fear such a scenario could unfold once more in the war-ravaged country.