Kabul, a bustling metropolis of six million people, was transformed into a slow, male-dominated city with no police or traffic controls and shuttered businesses everywhere on the first day of what the Taliban calls the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.’
A city that was packed with cars and hundreds of people lining up outside banks, visa processing offices, and travel agencies only 48 hours ago has come to a halt, according to Al Jazeera.
The remnants of the Western-backed Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which was built over 20 years of international assistance, still exist. Police checkpoint dividers and K9 cages are still standing, but unmanned.
The massive explosives scanners are still standing, but there is no one to operate them. The streets leading to the airport road were congested, and there were no traffic cops to direct people.
The most noticeable difference is the city’s new inhabitants: Taliban fighters from all 34 provinces of the country.
According to the report, 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.
But there was one noticeable difference between these men and their predecessors: each held a smartphone and was busy taking selfies with murals depicting the nation’s one-hundredth anniversary of independence 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-dozen pals were more than happy to pose for photos and take selfies with curious onlookers.
One of them even took out his gun and pointed it at 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 at 3 a.m. on Monday with a convoy from Arghandai, about 40 minutes from the city. He and his men were dispatched as part of the Taliban’s efforts to control any potential looting and other crimes after the police and other security forces appeared to have gone missing.
“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 discovered bags of heroin that the police are accused of dealing in.
Though the claim could not be independently verified, residents of cities such as Kabul have long accused the police of being involved in or complicit in the country’s drug trade.
There have been no confirmed reports of Taliban raids or seizures in Kabul. Residents speaking to Al Jazeera last week from Kandahar and Herat said Taliban fighters had entered 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 images of women on their windows, which would not have been permitted during the Taliban’s rule between 1996 and 2001, but the group itself did not appear to make any effort to hide any images that may run contrary to their conservative beliefs.
Gyms still had pictures of muscular shirtless men on their walls, and a hospital poster of an Indian female doctor was unaltered. Similarly, images of Abdul Razeq, the Taliban’s most despised Kandahar police chief, were not removed, nor were banners and flags commemorating the upcoming Shia holy day of Ashoura.
As the day progressed, more people, including women, began to emerge on the city’s streets, and restaurants and shops began to open. Women were seen leaving the house dressed normally.