The Taliban have taken power in Afghanistan two weeks before the U.S. was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly two-decade war.
The insurgents stormed across the country, capturing all major cities in a matter of days, as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies melted away.
Here’s a look at what happened and what comes next:
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN AFGHANISTAN?
The Taliban, a militant group that ran the country in the late 1990s, has again taken control.
The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the insurgents from power, but they never left. After they blitzed across the country in recent days, the Western-backed government that has run the country for 20 years collapsed. Afghans, fearing for the future, raced to the airport, one of the last routes out of the country.
WHY ARE PEOPLE FLEEING THE COUNTRY?
They’re worried that the country could descend into chaos or the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks against those who worked with the Americans or the government.
Many also fear the Taliban will reimpose the harsh interpretation of Islamic law that they relied on when they ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Back then, women were barred from attending school or working outside the home. They had to wear the all-encompassing burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside. The Taliban banned music, cut off the hands of thieves and stoned adulterers.
The Taliban have sought to present themselves as a more moderate force in recent years. Since taking over, they have promised to respect women’s rights, forgive those who fought against them and prevent Afghanistan from being used as a base for terror attacks. But many Afghans are sceptical of those promises.
Desperate Afghans clung to the side of a moving US military plane leaving Kabul airport, with at least two apparently falling to their deaths from the undercarriage immediately after takeoff.
Video footage shows hundreds of people running alongside the plane as it taxies along the runway of Kabul international airport on Monday. A number hang on to the side of the C-17A aircraft, just below the wing. Others jog alongside waving and cheering, as its engines whine.
The rules they strictly enforced the last time they were in power
- Women had to wear coverings from head to toe.
- Women were not allowed to work, except in very limited circumstances.
- Women were barred from attending schools.
- Women’s healthcare was restricted.
- Women were not allowed to leave their homes unless they were accompanied by male relatives.
- Women could only use special buses, and were only allowed to take taxis when with male relatives.
- Women could not be with men who were not related to them on the street.
- The windows of houses had to painted over to stop outsiders seeing women in their homes.
Now the Taliban are going door-to-door and screening names at Kabul checkpoints as they hunt for people who worked with U.S.-led forces or the previous Afghan government, according to an intelligence report submitted to the United Nations.