Following a lightning offensive across Afghanistan that saw many cities fall to the insurgents without a fight, the Taliban have sought to portray themselves as more moderate than when they imposed a brutal rule in the late 1990s. But many Afghans remain skeptical -- and thousands raced to the airport on Monday, desperate to flee the country.
The Taliban's ultraconservative Islamic views are still cherished by older generations. They included public stonings, amputations, and restrictions on women.
These concerns were raised by Zabihullah Mojahid, the spokesman for the government. He addressed them in his first news conference on Tuesday.
Mujahid, a shadowy figure for many years, said that the Taliban would respect women's rights but within Islamic law norms. He gave few details. Although he stated that the Taliban wanted private media to be "independent," he stressed that journalists "should not oppose national values."
He also promised that the insurgents would secure Afghanistan, but would not seek revenge on those who had worked with the former government or foreign governments.
He said, "We can assure you that no one will ask why they helped."
Enamullah Samangani (a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission) made similar promises earlier, saying that the Taliban would grant an "amnesty" without providing details and encouraging women join the government.
Kabul, the capital, remained silent for another day as Taliban guarded its streets. Many residents stayed at home in fear after the Taliban's takeover. Prisons were emptied and armories looted. Many women expressed concern that the two-decade-old Western effort to expand their rights in Afghanistan and rebuild Afghanistan would be abandoned by the Taliban.
Germany has stopped development aid to Afghanistan due to the Taliban takeover. This aid is crucial for funding the country and the Taliban's attempts to project a gentler version of themselves might be an attempt to stop that flow of money.
Although the Taliban have pledged not go after their enemies they are being accused by Kabul of having lists of people who cooperated to the government and are now seeking them out. Afghan broadcaster said that she was hiding at her relative's house because she was too scared to go home, much less work. She stated that she and other women believed the Taliban hadn't changed their ways. Because she was concerned for her safety, she spoke under anonymity.
Samangani addressed women's concerns, saying that the Taliban are ready to provide women with the environment they need to study and work, as well as the presence of women in various (government) structures in accordance to Islamic law and our cultural values.
This would be a significant departure from when the Taliban were last in power. Women were often kept at home.
Another sign that the Taliban is trying to project a new image was the interview of a female TV anchor from Tolo, a private broadcaster. The interview took place in a studio and featured a Taliban official. Women in hijabs demonstrating briefly in Kabul with signs demanding that the Taliban "eliminate women from public life"
Rupert Colville was a spokesperson for the United Nations high commissioner for human right. He noted both the Taliban's promises and everyday Afghans' fears.
He stated that such promises must be kept and, for the moment -- again, understandably, given history -- declarations have been met with some skeptical. "There have been many hard-won advancements in human rights over these past two decades. All Afghans have the right to be protected."
Germany has suspended its development aid for Afghanistan of 250 million euros ($294million) in the interim. This amount was estimated to be enough to fund the country until 2021. Security services and humanitarian aid receive separate funding. The Swedish government indicated that it would reduce aid to the country. However, Britain promised to increase its funding.
Dominic Raab, British Foreign Secretary, said that humanitarian aid could increase by 10%. He stated that the aid budget would now be rearranged for humanitarian and development purposes, and that no money would be given to the Taliban for security.
Under the supervision of American troops, Kabul's international Airport, which was the only exit for many, was reopened to military evacuation flights.
All flights were suspended on Monday when thousands of people rushed the airport. In shocking scenes captured on video, some clung to a plane as it took off and then fell to their deaths. According to U.S. officials, at least seven people were killed in the chaos at the airport.
Late Tuesday night, the Taliban had entered the civilian part of the airport and were firing into the air to drive 500 people out, according to an Afghan official, who spoke under anonymity as he was not authorized to brief journalists.
John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, stated that U.S. commanders are in contact with Taliban leaders at the airport to maintain the airlift. He also said that there have not been any hostile actions from the Taliban.
However, there were signs that the situation was still fragile. The U.S. Embassy at Kabul is now operating out of the airport and urged Americans not to come to the airport until they were contacted.
According to the German Foreign Ministry, a first German military transport aircraft landed in Kabul. However, due to chaos and continued chaos, it only had seven passengers. One more plane was later abandoned with 125 passengers.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reported that thousands were wounded by the Taliban in Afghanistan's recent fighting. This was just days before the planned withdrawal of the last American troops from the country at the end of the month.
U.S. As President Joe Biden did it, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg attributed the rapid collapse of Afghanistan to a failure by Afghan leadership. He also said that NATO must expose flaws in the effort to train Afghan soldiers.
Talks between the Taliban, several Afghan officials, including ex-President Hamid Karzai, and Abdullah Abdullah (who once headed the country’s negotiating committee), continued Tuesday.
Officials with knowledge of negotiations stated that discussions focused on the possibility of a Taliban-controlled government operating in Afghanistan given the recent changes. They spoke under anonymity in order to share confidential details about the discussions.
Mullah Abdul Ghani, a top Taliban leader, arrived in Kandahar Tuesday night from Qatar. His arrival could signal that a deal may be in the making.
In a potential complication, however, the vice president and president of the ousted government claimed Tuesday on Twitter that he was the country’s "legitimate" caretaker President. Amrullah Saleh stated that he should be in control under the constitution because President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.