Taliban launches charm offensive to win the trust of Afghans

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This seems to be just a typical social media image of a smiling politician holding a chubby baby of a confused stranger. Except that this man is a senior Taliban official, the scene is the Afghan capital, which was just recaptured by militants 20 years after they were expelled.

“In the center of Kabul, I fell in love with a glorious Kabul kid,” Ahmadullah Vasik, deputy director of the Taliban Cultural Committee, under this photo the day after the last U.S. troops withdrew from the country Tweeted.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, governors appointed by the Taliban have discussed their problems with shoppers and market vendors on the street, while heavily armed Taliban fighters posed for pictures with passersby.

Kissing babies and meeting voters may be gestures directly from the U.S. election manual. But for the new Afghan rulers, this political drama is part of a charm offensive aimed at winning over vigilant Afghans and persuading them that the Taliban are no longer the harsh extremes that cruelly treated the people during their previous rule from 1996 to 2001. molecular.

“They want the support of the people,” said Nasratula Hackpal, a political analyst based in Kabul. “They want to be welcomed by the people and win hearts and minds. They plan to rule for many, many years. They understand the value of public support.”

Many Afghans are still deeply scarred by the Taliban’s first brutal regime, while young people have heard traumatic stories from their elders. Under Islamist rule, women are forbidden to leave their homes unless they are accompanied by male relatives and wear all-encompassing burqas. Men must grow a beard, wear a hat, and wear traditional clothing, while television and images depicting characters are prohibited. Violation of the regime’s interpretation of Islamic rules in the Middle Ages will be punished by public flogging, stoning and even execution on the spot.

The memory of the repression — and the fear of reprisals against Afghans with ties to the previous government and foreign military — has contributed to the recent Chaos at Kabul Airport Because it was overwhelmed by panicked Afghans seeking to flee after the Taliban took over.

With the withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban are trying to reassure Afghans — they are now accustomed to mobile phones, Internet access, and greater personal and social freedom, especially in Kabul — they have nothing to fear.

A Taliban fighter walks in the Kabul market. Regime officials have been talking to passersby on the street to show a more friendly image © Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

“Their biggest challenge at the moment-not just to obtain diplomatic recognition-is to convince the Afghan people to accept them as chief executive,” said Avinash Paliwal, deputy director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. “The Taliban are trying to build a national-citizen consensus. They are strict, they are very strict, but they are trying to govern because they need to be attractive among the people.”

Paliwal, author of the book Afghan Issues, My enemy’s enemy, Said the Taliban want to convince Afghans that they can return to work safely-a move that is essential to prevent the collapse of state machinery and public services.

“What they are doing has perfect political significance,” he said. “They need to revitalize the economy, and for this people must have confidence in them, because they are not crazy crazy about war. It is important to hold a baby so that the teacher will appear, the banker will also appear, and the roadside barbecues are sold. The stringed person will also appear.”

After the Taliban took over, the image of a woman in a shop in Kabul was portrayed as a face.
After the Taliban took over, the image of a woman in a shop in Kabul was portrayed as a face. Many Afghans still fear Islamist repression © Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

At The Slice Bakery, a popular place where young men and women live in Kabul, the cashier said that Taliban officials visited and sat down without disturbing anyone, even female customers, while chess continued to flow unimpeded. “We know that the Taliban used to oppose chess, but so far, they have not disturbed anyone,” 23-year-old Farzad Karimi said on the board of the cafe.

The 33-year-old Haqpal hid a television in the basement during the last Taliban regime. He said he believes the organization has become more secular and may be more selective when it comes to strict implementation of Islamic principles sex.

A shopkeeper arranges TV boxes in a shop in Kabul
A shopkeeper puts a TV box in a shop in Kabul. Since the last time the Taliban ruled, Afghans have become accustomed to media and Internet access © Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

He said: “They studied why they fell and why people hate them so much.” “They don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the first era.”

But even if the Taliban work hard to improve their image, many Afghans still feel scared.

Many people with ties to the previous government went into hiding because of reports that some Taliban were hunting down rivals and outspoken critics in retaliation. If it were not for the first total suppression of the Taliban regime, women would undoubtedly face restrictions.

Analysts say that the Taliban movement is also fragmented on key ideological issues, and their new policy In the next few days, the type of social order they hope to establish may become clearer.

Just as some Taliban shared photos of young girls carrying pink backpacks to school on social media, the Afghan National TV broadcast this week the weird victory parade of masked Taliban fighters, including the “martyrdom” from its “martyrdom” to show them. Car bombs, roadside explosive devices and suicide vests — weapons that have claimed thousands of lives in Afghanistan in the past two decades.

However, for now, many residents of Kabul breathed a sigh of relief because their city has not turned into a battlefield and the Taliban seem to be more moderate than before. Like the Taliban’s socio-cultural policies, the organization’s ability to respond to the deepening economic crisis will greatly affect public perception in the coming days.

“A lot of changes have taken place in the Taliban this time, which brings hope to desperate Afghans,” said Lal Agha, a retired police officer in his 60s. “We don’t care who is the leader, we don’t care which system is ruling. We want peace—and a piece of bread.”

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