The Taliban is promising it’s turned over a new leaf, but world leaders fear what the militant organisation could do, 20 years after it turned Afghanistan into a safe haven for terrorists.
It took the Taliban less than two weeks to take control of the country as the Islamist group took advantage of the US withdrawal and low morale against Afghan soldiers.
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting earlier this week to discuss the potential for terrorism to kick off again in Afghanistan.
The 15-member council urged international leaders to ensure Afghanistan does not become a breeding ground for terrorism under the Taliban.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the meeting that the world must unite to combat the “global terrorist threat in Afghanistan”.
The council “reaffirmed the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan” to ensure it “should not be used to threaten or attack any country, and that neither the Taliban nor any other Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any other country”.
There are fears the Taliban has maintained strong links with al-Qaeda, the extremist terrorist organisation that carried out the September 11 attacks on the US.
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The Taliban turned Afghanistan into a safe haven for al-Qaeda and allowed the regime to operate training camps.
Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, was also hidden by the Taliban in Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks.
The US dropped its first bombs on Afghanistan a month after the September 11 attacks due to the Taliban’s refusal to give up bin Laden.
The Taliban was overthrown by the US in December 2001.
“The international community must unite to make sure that Afghanistan is never again used as a platform or safe haven for terrorist organisations,” Mr Guterres said.
“I appeal to the Security Council – and the international community as a whole – to stand together, to work together and act together.”
Countries across the world are being urged to “use all tools at its disposal to suppress the global terrorist threat in Afghanistan and to guarantee that basic human rights will be respected”.
Taliban promises ‘we will not seek revenge’
The Taliban fronted both local and international reporters this week, offering a pledge of reconciliation and vowing no revenge against opponents.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid revealed his identity for the first time on Tuesday night and told journalists the Islamic group was not the same it was in the 1990s.
The organisation controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, enforcing its strict interpretation of sharia law.
There are huge concerns globally about the Taliban’s brutal human rights record – and tens of thousands of Afghans are still trying to flee the country – but Mujahid said the group was taking a diplomatic approach.
“All those in the opposite side are pardoned from A to Z,” he said.
“We will not seek revenge.”
Mujahid said the new regime would be “positively different” from their horrific five years of governing, which was infamous for deaths by stoning, girls being banned from school and women from working in contact with men.
“If the question is based on ideology, and beliefs, there is no difference … but if we calculate it based on experience, maturity, and insight, no doubt there are many differences,” Mujahid told reporters, adding the group was “committed to letting women work in accordance with the principles of Islam”.
Taliban leaders’ links to terrorist groups
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the co-founder and deputy leader of the Taliban, arrived back in Afghanistan last night.
He chose to touch down in Afghanistan’s second biggest city Kandahar – the Taliban’s spiritual birthplace and capital during their first time in power.
He arrived from Qatar, where he has spent months leading talks with the United States and then Afghan peace negotiators.
Footage released by pro-Taliban media showed crowds gathering around Baradar at the airport, pumping their fists in the air and chanting in celebration.
Like most Afghans, Baradar’s life was forever altered by the Soviet invasion of the country in the late 1970s, transforming him into an insurgent.
He co-founded the Taliban movement with Mullah Omar in the early 1990s before being arrested in Pakistan in 2010.
He was kept in custody until 2018 when pressure from the US saw him freed and relocated to Qatar.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is the deputy leader of the Taliban movement, also heads up the notorious Haqqani Network.
The Haqqani Network is a US-designated terror group that has long been viewed as one of the most dangerous factions fighting Afghan and US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan during the past two decades.
The group is infamous for its use of suicide bombers and is believed to have orchestrated some of the most high-profile attacks in Kabul over the years.
Sirajuddin is the son of the famed commander from the anti-Soviet jihad, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Western citizens for ransom – including US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, released in 2014.
Known for their independence, fighting acumen, and savvy business dealings, the Haqqanis are believed to oversee operations in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, while holding considerable sway over the Taliban’s leadership council.
The Taliban led a pariah regime from 1996 to 2001, infamous for a brutal rule in which girls could not go to school, women were barred from working in jobs that would put them in contact with men, and people were stoned to death.
— with AFP