The Taliban aren’t going anywhere. They rapidly took over one province after the other, until eventually walking into Kabul a year ago today. There is opposition, of course, but no one who is able to seriously threaten their established Islamic emirate. What we’ve seen over the past year is an insurgency group turned government – and it hasn’t worked out as well as they would have liked to, even though they are trying. State-building capacity is low, many qualified people have fled and the Taliban isn’t quite capable of governing as they can’t agree on their policies.
The response of ordinary Afghans varies. Many are glad that fighting has stopped and that mobility has increased. Previously, it was too dangerous to travel on many roads and in entire provinces, which isn’t the case anymore. At the same time, Afghanistan has slipped even deeper into poverty as bank reserves are frozen in foreign accounts and development funds have dried up. Desperation is widespread because people can’t afford basic necessities. I’ve spoken to women in more than 20 provinces over the past year and they have all told me that they feel hopeless. There are no job opportunities, girls can’t go to high school and, once again, the Taliban is suggesting that women should cover up, including their faces, or stay at home if they can.
Over the past four years of working in Afghanistan, I had always caught a glimmer of hope when speaking to people but I’ve witnessed this being extinguished since last August. Yes, the war is over but many Afghans continue to live in fear. Women, especially, now feel as though there is no place for their ambitions or dreams.
Kabul has always been a vibrant city, full of life even amid horrendous attacks and rampant insecurity – coffee shops bustling with young people, hikers taking to the mountains on weekends; some would take their loudspeakers for an impromptu dance session. Many Afghans say that Kabul’s spark has died. The Taliban constantly tell me that everything is better, that people are happier, but many of them hadn’t seen Kabul before last year; otherwise, they too would know that this is a changed city, a changed country; or perhaps they do know but don’t want to admit it. There’s no war, maybe more security – but there’s less hope.
Stefanie Glinski is a freelance journalist based in Afghanistan. Hear more from her on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.