One of the last surviving 9/11 masterminds, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was all smiles in a friendly banter with his co-accused during a court hearing on Tuesday at the infamous Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba. It was their first hearing in more than 500 days, four days before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks in which 2,977 innocents were killed.
The hearing was underway when Taliban Spokesperson Zaibullah Mujahid in Kabul announced the caretaker Taliban regime with a council of ministers headed by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund who has been a close associate of Mullah Omar, with two deputies including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. The 33-member Council of Ministers has over 11 Mullahs and nine Molavis.
At least six of the new Taliban ministers are products of Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Pakistan, which is also known as the “University of Jihad” producing record number of Islamist terrorists.
Four top ministers in the new Islamic Emirate regime are US-designated global terrorists with millions of dollars on their head. Among them, the chief of the Haqqani Network–Sirajuddin Haqqani–was the mastermind of the Indian embassy bomb blasts in Kabul in 2008, which killed 58 and injured 141. Haqqani, believed to be close to Pakistan ISI, was named the new Interior Minister of the Taliban regime. In January 2008, Haqqani was also involved in the bomb blast at the popular Serena Hotel in Kabul, which killed six people including an American citizen. In November 2008, Haqqani was yet again involved in the kidnapping of The New York Times journalist David Rohde.
Tuesday was marked by protests across Kabul and many other provinces of Afghanistan with men and women coming out on the streets against the Taliban, chanting “Death to Pakistan” and “Support Panjshir”. Similar protests were also witnessed in Washington DC, London and Tehran. Taliban terrorists opened fire on several such protesters in Kabul and Herat. At least four civilians were killed and eight injured in the Taliban firing on the protesters in Herat. Several women, activists and journalists were also manhandled and detained in Kabul.
Protests were sparked after photographs of Pakistan ISI Chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed who arrived uninvited in Kabul went viral. Protesters were also in rage after reports emerged of Pakistan military and intelligence agency helping the Taliban in attacking innocent civilians in Panjshir Valley using drones and aircrafts.
The protests have seen unprecedented participation of women and a special hate for Pakistan. Installation of a Taliban regime in Kabul is being seen as an attempt by Pakistan to have its proxy rule in the country.
In a chilling visual when the Taliban was controlling the protesters using firearms, a Taliban terrorist was seen flogging a woman at the protest. “In the seconds before the Talib flogs the woman, she stands, not moving away, looking directly at him as he angrily approaches. This is not the 90s: Afghans demand their rights. A Blitzkrieg of 11 days for territory is one thing. Winning Afghans — and peace — another,” tweeted an angry Muska Dastageer, a lecturer at the American University of Afghanistan.
The new Taliban regime in Afghanistan is not a government but a reincarnation of Quetta Shura with territorial control. The new Mullah-Molavi Regime of Kabul is of the Taliban, by the Taliban and for the Taliban with the direct blessings of Rawalpindi.
At its helm is Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, who had personally sanctioned the destruction of the mammoth Bamiyan Buddha statue. Akhund who hails from Kandahar and has studied from Pakistan-based madrassas is believed to hate the West and the western culture and, in particular, the Northern Alliance (Mujahideen) to the core. The US intelligence records describe Akhund as “ineffective, subject to mood swings and difficult to work with”. He was also believed to have confiscated the United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan (UNSMA) building in Kabul in June 2001 after a specious lease dispute. Akhund who has earlier also been the Governor of Kandahar was designated a proscribed terrorist by the United Nations in January 2001.
The propaganda of an inclusive government was a sham to divert attention of the western media, in which Taliban was mighty successful. The image makeover of Taliban is for the outside world. Within, in its ideology, core principles, ideas and actions, the Taliban remains steadfast and committed as it was in its earlier brutal rule. The brutality however hasn’t begun yet since Taliban wants international aid and recognition. One should expect a global diplomacy by Taliban in the coming weeks for trade, economic aid but above all legitimacy.
The Taliban regime hasn’t come through democratic means, neither does it believe in any enshrined principles of democracy in the Afghan constitution. Pakistan used Doha peace talks as a smokescreen for the Taliban. The world cannot remain silent to the Pakistan-Taliban terror nexus, which may go beyond Afghanistan if it remains unchecked.
United States may have left Afghanistan but the wounds of the departure may remain fresh for a long time. Washington DC has still not realised the consequences of keeping a snake oil merchant nation of Pakistan as a close ally. Rawalpindi was celebrating when 13 coffins of American soldiers who died in Kabul bombing arrived on the US soil. The US has remained a mute spectator to Pakistan deep state’s links with Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISKP in the region. The oblivious state will be a strategic blunder in the long run. If this remains the foreign policy of United States, the day isn’t far when Biden will shake hands with Mullah regime of Afghanistan only to invade Afghan soil again to counter Pakistan’s fresh demons.
Aditya Raj Kaul is Contributing Editor, News18 group with more than a decade-long experience in covering Conflict, Foreign Policy, and Internal Security. He can be reached at Aditya.Kaul@nw18.com