A new day is dawning in Afghanistan and the new government is already starting to flex its muscles.
The Taliban faced its first street protests on Wednesday and promptly opened fire on the small crowd. The protest occurred in the northeast city of Jalalabad and the Taliban fighters apparently didn’t like the displays of the Afghanistan national flag, according to Al Jazeera.
The reporter on the scene wrote that the crowd was upset at replacing the national flag with the Taliban emblem in the city square.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Kabul, said that “a fairly sizable part” of Jalalabad’s residents were resisting the replacement of Afghanistan’s national flag in the city by the Taliban banner.
“We have seen uploaded on social media, protests in the streets of hundreds if not thousands of people waving the national flag,” he said.
“We know that they have put the flag back up again in an important square in Jalalabad and that there have been clashes with the Taliban …”
There have been reports of the Taliban beating people in the streets. And there have been protests in other cities as well.
For the new Taliban government, the jarring images of violence at the protest — as well as images chaos and people being beaten while trying to approach Kabul’s airport in an attempt to flee the country — have undermined their efforts to present themselves as responsible stewards of the government.
In Khost, in the southeastern part of the country, there were also demonstrations, with dramatic photos and video showing hundreds of people taking to the streets.
Taliban fighters reportedly opened fire at protesters in Afghanistan’s Jalalabad who took to the streets demanding the reinstallation of the national flag.
At least 2 people have been killed and 12 injured in the clashes. pic.twitter.com/8jGtLfxKRl
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) August 18, 2021
There are few women on the streets, as you might expect given that most Afghans don’t trust anything the Taliban says when it comes to the treatment of women. And there are thousands of Afghan civilians who worked with the U.S. military as translators and cultural affairs aides who are dreading the knock on the door by the Taliban. The Taliban’s promise of “amnesty” may not apply to those who collaborated with the “occupier.”
Their blood will be on Biden’s hands for saddling them with a mountain of red tape that allowed only a fraction to escape the Taliban’s clutches.
Perhaps most worrying of all is that the Taliban has gotten its hands on several biometric systems that were used to verify the identites of collaborators.
“We understand that the Taliban is now likely to have access to various biometric databases and equipment in Afghanistan, including some left behind by coalition military forces,” said Human Rights First, a U.S. NGO, on Monday. “This technology is likely to include access to a database with fingerprints and iris scans, and include facial recognition technology.”
Americans in Kabul are still at risk and negotiations are underway to give them safe passage out of Afghanistan. It’s by no means clear that the Taliban can guarantee their safety since the U.S. government is now refusing to do that.