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Taliban transferring senior officers to Kandahar. Will it imply a tougher line?

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The distant Afghan metropolis, the group’s religious middle, is internet hosting extra regime officers and overseas dignitaries as Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada consolidates energy

Taliban spokesman Inamullah Samangani, middle, meets final month with different Taliban officers in his new workplace on the Division of Tradition and Data in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. ( Elise Blanchard for The Washington Submit)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Earlier than Sept. 11, 2001, this distant, sand-swept border metropolis in southwestern Afghanistan was the seat of energy of the Taliban, the militant Islamic regime headed by the reclusive Mohammad Omar. Camel caravans got here and went; spiritual decrees have been issued and obeyed. Kabul, the capital 300 miles to the north, was a ghost city of near-empty ministries and shuttered embassies.

As we speak, Kandahar is a bustling, safe and much more trendy metropolis — on the floor. Factories produce aspirin and child method, taxes are collected and electrical energy is accessible around-the-clock.

In different methods, although, this historic bastion of conservative tribal tradition, the birthplace of the Taliban motion, has modified little because the group first dominated the nation from 1996 to 2001. Kandahar has adjusted virtually seamlessly to the 2021 return of the Taliban — and the revival of their inflexible Islamist rule underneath one other shadowy spiritual chief, Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Now there are indications that Taliban leaders underneath Akhundzada are making Kandahar their base from which to regulate the nation, signaling the declining affect of extra average Taliban members within the capital because the regime doubles down on repressive insurance policies.

Up to now month, regime officers have invited delegations from Japan and Qatar to fulfill them right here, slightly than with different officers in Kabul. The Taliban’s chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, and a second data official from northern Afghanistan, Inamullah Samangani, have been abruptly relocated right here from places of work within the capital.

There’s been no official clarification for these adjustments. However they recommend Akhundzada is consolidating energy by shifting the nation’s middle of gravity to the Taliban’s religious middle — a transfer that might augur a hardening of the regime’s opposition to worldwide calls for.

Mujahid and Samangani say their reassignments had no particular significance. Samangani advised The Washington Submit his solely curiosity was to obey the needs of Akhundzada, who lives right here. “No matter he asks me to do, I’ll do gladly,” Samangani mentioned. “If he wants me to be right here, I might be right here.”

As we speak, within the metropolis of 614,000, ladies have largely vanished from markets and workplaces. Males have been lashed within the native sports activities stadium for adultery and theft.

Whereas a couple of residents are keen to criticize these insurance policies aloud, many have accepted them willingly as the worth for restoring order and custom after years of battle, upheaval and Western affect.

“We’ve got peace and safety. That’s what issues essentially the most,” mentioned Jamshid Mateen, a person in his 40s who sells wedding ceremony robes in a lined market. It’s one of many few locations in Kandahar the place ladies should store freely.

Mateen’s feedback have been echoed by many older males right here. However youthful males — together with his teenage son — confessed that they miss listening to music, which the Taliban have once more banned as un-Islamic. “It’s irritating,” the boy mentioned. “There is no such thing as a enjoyable anymore.”

Akhundzada not often leaves his high-walled compound, and is much more not often seen in public. “He lives a easy life right here in a rented home, not a luxurious palace in Kabul,” Mujahid advised The Submit. “He needs to have higher relations with the nation and the worldwide neighborhood.”

Mujahid famous that the majority Taliban officers, together with senior navy and safety ministers and Supreme Courtroom justices, stay in Kabul, a cosmopolitan metropolis the place 20 years of Western affect took deeper root. “The ability remains to be there,” he mentioned.

Nonetheless, official affect has been steadily transferring right here from the a lot bigger capital. “The middle of gravity is unquestionably shifting,” mentioned one analyst in Kabul, who spoke on the situation of anonymity for concern of retaliation. “When the primary spokesman is there, it means the federal government is there. Kandahar is changing into the brand new capital.”

In Kandahar, it’s “a lot simpler for the Taliban to regulate issues than in Kabul,” a a lot bigger and extra various metropolis, mentioned a former native enterprise proprietor who now lives exterior the nation. He spoke on the situation that he be recognized solely by his first identify, Mansour, for concern of retaliation. In Kabul, he famous, individuals are “extra educated, extra former officers are nonetheless there, and it’s tougher to implement full obedience.”

A turning level within the shift got here in March 2022. The regime, strapped for money after resisting months of overseas strain, promised to elevate its ban on women attending highschool. However on the day they have been attributable to return, the order was revoked, reportedly by Akhundzada. Teenage women stay barred from finding out.

In November, the Taliban resumed public lashing and stoning for criminals and ethical offenders. Additionally they allowed accusers to hold out public revenge punishments, together with executions. All such punishments require ultimate approval by Akhundzada himself.

In Kandahar, males expressed little concern concerning the resumption of Taliban rule, however some mentioned older women needs to be allowed to review. Most within the metropolis are from the Taliban’s Sunni spiritual sect and of Pashtun ethnic background; in addition they share its conventional tribal tradition.

Enterprise house owners mingle simply with Taliban officers. A number of complained about new taxes and the issue of importing overseas items, however they mentioned they in any other case had been handled nicely.

“For the reason that emirate got here, there have been a variety of alternatives for enterprise,” mentioned Sarwar Amani, director of the Kandahar bureau of trade and mines. “House owners are not nervous about being kidnapped. Corruption has vanished and the earlier apply of nepotism for contracts has stopped. Now anybody can make investments.”

On a tract of suburban industrial land known as Anomina, factories have begun working once more underneath exemptions from worldwide monetary sanctions on the Taliban. Snow Pharma, a big trendy plant with Indian technicians and greater than 1,000 Afghan staff, began turning out medicinal tablets and capsules a number of weeks in the past.

Native spiritual leaders are particularly enthused concerning the return of the Taliban. The regime is subsidizing a whole lot of madrassas — spiritual colleges — for boys and males.

“Because of God, safety is again and the federal government has given all rights to Muslims,” mentioned Mufti Ahmadullah Hemat, 35, a former Taliban fighter who teaches at a reopened madrassa. He spent three years as a prisoner at Bagram air base, the previous fundamental U.S. navy base close to Kabul, he mentioned. “There are nonetheless many sacrifices due to overseas sanctions, however the emirate won’t let the folks endure,” he mentioned.

School members on the madrassas mentioned women needs to be allowed to review, however solely underneath the “correct circumstances,” corresponding to gender-segregated amenities. That’s the place the Taliban has taken — with out making it occur.

It’s tougher to discern the opinion of native ladies. Many have been despatched residence from jobs and a few have stopped answering their telephones. In public, they’re scarce, hurried and absolutely veiled. Approached by a Submit reporter, a number of shied away.

“Generally our outdated purchasers do name us and beg for assist, however there’s nothing we will do,” mentioned a overseas assist employee who as soon as assisted ladies in Kandahar. “They’re being separated from public life. Their very existence is withering away.”

However a number of native professionals mentioned the brand new restrictions mirror the area’s conventional tradition. Wives and daughters by no means participated in public life or social occasions the place unrelated males have been current. “It wasn’t simply the fault of males,” one mentioned. “If you happen to took your spouse out, all the opposite ladies would gossip.”

The United Nations and nationwide governments have condemned public corporal punishment. However some right here say it’s helpful for deterring would-be criminals and extra humane than lengthy Western jail sentences.

“These strategies aren’t harsh; they’re comfortable,” mentioned Hafiz Mahmadulla, director of the madrassas. “Different nations put criminals in jail for all times, however in Islam they’re punished rapidly after which it’s completed.”

There have now been scores of such spectacles nationwide, together with a number of right here in latest months. At one, an attendee mentioned, Kandahar’s soccer stadium was full and the group of males and boys was excited. 9 unidentified males who had been accused of theft, adultery or partaking in gay exercise have been lashed with as much as 40 strokes every.

Mujahid, the federal government spokesman, mentioned the Taliban need higher relations with the worldwide neighborhood, however “it can’t be on one aspect solely.”

“They’ll by no means help us,” he mentioned. “So why ought to we take heed to their calls for?”

Islam, he mentioned, “has its personal manner” of coping with legal offenders. Public punishments, he mentioned, “assist residents be taught to not commit crimes” — and disgrace those that do.

“Islamic regulation is an important factor,” he mentioned. “And it’s what the folks need.”

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The distant Afghan metropolis, the group’s religious middle, is internet hosting extra regime officers and overseas dignitaries as Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada consolidates energy

Taliban spokesman Inamullah Samangani, middle, meets final month with different Taliban officers in his new workplace on the Division of Tradition and Data in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. ( Elise Blanchard for The Washington Submit)

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Earlier than Sept. 11, 2001, this distant, sand-swept border metropolis in southwestern Afghanistan was the seat of energy of the Taliban, the militant Islamic regime headed by the reclusive Mohammad Omar. Camel caravans got here and went; spiritual decrees have been issued and obeyed. Kabul, the capital 300 miles to the north, was a ghost city of near-empty ministries and shuttered embassies.

As we speak, Kandahar is a bustling, safe and much more trendy metropolis — on the floor. Factories produce aspirin and child method, taxes are collected and electrical energy is accessible around-the-clock.

In different methods, although, this historic bastion of conservative tribal tradition, the birthplace of the Taliban motion, has modified little because the group first dominated the nation from 1996 to 2001. Kandahar has adjusted virtually seamlessly to the 2021 return of the Taliban — and the revival of their inflexible Islamist rule underneath one other shadowy spiritual chief, Hibatullah Akhundzada.

Now there are indications that Taliban leaders underneath Akhundzada are making Kandahar their base from which to regulate the nation, signaling the declining affect of extra average Taliban members within the capital because the regime doubles down on repressive insurance policies.

Up to now month, regime officers have invited delegations from Japan and Qatar to fulfill them right here, slightly than with different officers in Kabul. The Taliban’s chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, and a second data official from northern Afghanistan, Inamullah Samangani, have been abruptly relocated right here from places of work within the capital.

There’s been no official clarification for these adjustments. However they recommend Akhundzada is consolidating energy by shifting the nation’s middle of gravity to the Taliban’s religious middle — a transfer that might augur a hardening of the regime’s opposition to worldwide calls for.

Mujahid and Samangani say their reassignments had no particular significance. Samangani advised The Washington Submit his solely curiosity was to obey the needs of Akhundzada, who lives right here. “No matter he asks me to do, I’ll do gladly,” Samangani mentioned. “If he wants me to be right here, I might be right here.”

As we speak, within the metropolis of 614,000, ladies have largely vanished from markets and workplaces. Males have been lashed within the native sports activities stadium for adultery and theft.

Whereas a couple of residents are keen to criticize these insurance policies aloud, many have accepted them willingly as the worth for restoring order and custom after years of battle, upheaval and Western affect.

“We’ve got peace and safety. That’s what issues essentially the most,” mentioned Jamshid Mateen, a person in his 40s who sells wedding ceremony robes in a lined market. It’s one of many few locations in Kandahar the place ladies should store freely.

Mateen’s feedback have been echoed by many older males right here. However youthful males — together with his teenage son — confessed that they miss listening to music, which the Taliban have once more banned as un-Islamic. “It’s irritating,” the boy mentioned. “There is no such thing as a enjoyable anymore.”

Akhundzada not often leaves his high-walled compound, and is much more not often seen in public. “He lives a easy life right here in a rented home, not a luxurious palace in Kabul,” Mujahid advised The Submit. “He needs to have higher relations with the nation and the worldwide neighborhood.”

Mujahid famous that the majority Taliban officers, together with senior navy and safety ministers and Supreme Courtroom justices, stay in Kabul, a cosmopolitan metropolis the place 20 years of Western affect took deeper root. “The ability remains to be there,” he mentioned.

Nonetheless, official affect has been steadily transferring right here from the a lot bigger capital. “The middle of gravity is unquestionably shifting,” mentioned one analyst in Kabul, who spoke on the situation of anonymity for concern of retaliation. “When the primary spokesman is there, it means the federal government is there. Kandahar is changing into the brand new capital.”

In Kandahar, it’s “a lot simpler for the Taliban to regulate issues than in Kabul,” a a lot bigger and extra various metropolis, mentioned a former native enterprise proprietor who now lives exterior the nation. He spoke on the situation that he be recognized solely by his first identify, Mansour, for concern of retaliation. In Kabul, he famous, individuals are “extra educated, extra former officers are nonetheless there, and it’s tougher to implement full obedience.”

A turning level within the shift got here in March 2022. The regime, strapped for money after resisting months of overseas strain, promised to elevate its ban on women attending highschool. However on the day they have been attributable to return, the order was revoked, reportedly by Akhundzada. Teenage women stay barred from finding out.

In November, the Taliban resumed public lashing and stoning for criminals and ethical offenders. Additionally they allowed accusers to hold out public revenge punishments, together with executions. All such punishments require ultimate approval by Akhundzada himself.

In Kandahar, males expressed little concern concerning the resumption of Taliban rule, however some mentioned older women needs to be allowed to review. Most within the metropolis are from the Taliban’s Sunni spiritual sect and of Pashtun ethnic background; in addition they share its conventional tribal tradition.

Enterprise house owners mingle simply with Taliban officers. A number of complained about new taxes and the issue of importing overseas items, however they mentioned they in any other case had been handled nicely.

“For the reason that emirate got here, there have been a variety of alternatives for enterprise,” mentioned Sarwar Amani, director of the Kandahar bureau of trade and mines. “House owners are not nervous about being kidnapped. Corruption has vanished and the earlier apply of nepotism for contracts has stopped. Now anybody can make investments.”

On a tract of suburban industrial land known as Anomina, factories have begun working once more underneath exemptions from worldwide monetary sanctions on the Taliban. Snow Pharma, a big trendy plant with Indian technicians and greater than 1,000 Afghan staff, began turning out medicinal tablets and capsules a number of weeks in the past.

Native spiritual leaders are particularly enthused concerning the return of the Taliban. The regime is subsidizing a whole lot of madrassas — spiritual colleges — for boys and males.

“Because of God, safety is again and the federal government has given all rights to Muslims,” mentioned Mufti Ahmadullah Hemat, 35, a former Taliban fighter who teaches at a reopened madrassa. He spent three years as a prisoner at Bagram air base, the previous fundamental U.S. navy base close to Kabul, he mentioned. “There are nonetheless many sacrifices due to overseas sanctions, however the emirate won’t let the folks endure,” he mentioned.

School members on the madrassas mentioned women needs to be allowed to review, however solely underneath the “correct circumstances,” corresponding to gender-segregated amenities. That’s the place the Taliban has taken — with out making it occur.

It’s tougher to discern the opinion of native ladies. Many have been despatched residence from jobs and a few have stopped answering their telephones. In public, they’re scarce, hurried and absolutely veiled. Approached by a Submit reporter, a number of shied away.

“Generally our outdated purchasers do name us and beg for assist, however there’s nothing we will do,” mentioned a overseas assist employee who as soon as assisted ladies in Kandahar. “They’re being separated from public life. Their very existence is withering away.”

However a number of native professionals mentioned the brand new restrictions mirror the area’s conventional tradition. Wives and daughters by no means participated in public life or social occasions the place unrelated males have been current. “It wasn’t simply the fault of males,” one mentioned. “If you happen to took your spouse out, all the opposite ladies would gossip.”

The United Nations and nationwide governments have condemned public corporal punishment. However some right here say it’s helpful for deterring would-be criminals and extra humane than lengthy Western jail sentences.

“These strategies aren’t harsh; they’re comfortable,” mentioned Hafiz Mahmadulla, director of the madrassas. “Different nations put criminals in jail for all times, however in Islam they’re punished rapidly after which it’s completed.”

There have now been scores of such spectacles nationwide, together with a number of right here in latest months. At one, an attendee mentioned, Kandahar’s soccer stadium was full and the group of males and boys was excited. 9 unidentified males who had been accused of theft, adultery or partaking in gay exercise have been lashed with as much as 40 strokes every.

Mujahid, the federal government spokesman, mentioned the Taliban need higher relations with the worldwide neighborhood, however “it can’t be on one aspect solely.”

“They’ll by no means help us,” he mentioned. “So why ought to we take heed to their calls for?”

Islam, he mentioned, “has its personal manner” of coping with legal offenders. Public punishments, he mentioned, “assist residents be taught to not commit crimes” — and disgrace those that do.

“Islamic regulation is an important factor,” he mentioned. “And it’s what the folks need.”

Gaze week

Gaze week

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