As Europe scrambles to get its diplomats and Afghan allies out of Kabul, some in the capital have started to witness a return to a resemblance of normality.
“At the start when the Taliban entered Kabul, people panicked,” said Afghan journalist Fazel Qazizai, who has years of experience covering the Taliban’s moves in the country. “They didn’t know how the Taliban would deal with them so they were right to be worried. But gradually they got back to normal. The Taliban are friendly towards everyone.”
Qazizai, co-author of Night Letters: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Afghan Islamists who Changed the World, said the scenes that unfolded shortly after the group took over the capital were bizarre even for him.
“People were posing for selfies with them (Taliban), trying to chat with them, trying to make jokes and fun with them… I think that’s the new strategy of the Taliban, to not harass or bother with any issue,” he said.
Qazizai also said that — at least for now — the fears with regards to the rights of women have not materialised.
“They were not forced to wear [the] burqa, they were not forced to go out with a male … they were not forced to take a special seat in a taxi,” he said. “So, for now, there is nothing going on like that.
“Besides that, the Taliban seems to be ok with music, I am not saying they will be ok forever but right now I saw some boys playing music in a car.
“One of my sisters is a doctor and my other sister is a teacher and both of them have concerns about what will be the strategy of the Taliban for us. But you know in the female world they contacted other females who were already working in Taliban controlled areas and I think now they are optimistic that they will be allowed to work.”
But in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, Taliban fighters reportedly fired into crowds of protesters. There were also reports of demonstrations in the southeastern city of Khost.
With most public services not working — and banks and the main exchange market still closed — life in Afghanistan is set to become even more difficult, according to Qazizai.
“When the banks are closed the rates of [the] dollar are quite high – so now $1 is more than 90 Afs. And that has a direct impact on food, on petrol, oil and other stuff.”
Qazizai, asked if he thought the Taliban were capable of governing, added: “Before the Taliban captured Kabul, I went to the areas controlled by the Taliban and they were able to run police, judicial different offices, they were able to do investigations and justice, everything themselves.
“Right now a special commission is working house-by-house and they are trying to collect government vehicles and weapons.
“One thing is clear they cannot run everything themselves. There can’t be a totalitarian system that will be run by them. If they do that there will be big problems and they will have shortages of affairs and a lot of things they will need out of Afghanistan.”
Qazizai told Euronews that although he and his family envisage leaving the country he is staying put, at least for now.
“The worrying the West had was the same worry we had in Kabul before the Taliban captured Kabul. I was worried about a brutal war, about their unfair deal of [the] Taliban, about how the Taliban might be chasing after people. We even decided where we should go as refugees.
“So all the worrying the West had, we had. But when the Taliban arrived they arrived with a different news strategy that is great and is good news for us and for the world.
“But I am not sure this strategy will stay longer.
“If this strategy stays longer and even forever that is great, that is good news for everyone.
“But is this is just a technique to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans and when they are stable they will change? I am just talking about nowadays.”
Meanwhile, there were reports of chaos outside Kabul’s international airport on Wednesday as thousands of people tried to enter it in hopes to leave the country – and hundreds were seen camping out near the French embassy.
Many in Afghanistan believe the Taliban may have changed in form, but not in substance and fear for their lives under the rule of the group.
But Qazizai says he is cautiously optimistic.
“Now the Taliban came with force,” he said. “They came with full power. They defeated everyone. If they wanted to announce their totalitarian regime or an Islamic emirate, there would be no one to stop them.
“If they stick to their Doha promises, and if they do really negotiate a new government, and if they do give a chance to other Afghans to talk and participate, we will a chance for a good future and for a good governance and for good days.”