Taliban administration deploys a group of armed forces to protect Shia mosques in Kabul. Outside a Shiite shrine in Kabul, four armed Taliban fighters stood guard as worshippers filed in for Friday prayers. Alongside them are guards seen from Afghanistan’s mainly Shiite Hazara minority, an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder.
It is now a sign of the strange, new relationship brought by the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August. The Taliban, Sunni hard-liners who for decades targeted the Hazaras as heretics, are now their only protection against a more brutal enemy: the Islamic State group.
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The refurnished image of the Taliban
Since seizing power, the Taliban have presented themselves as more moderate, compared with their first rule in the 1990s when they violently repressed the Hazaras and other ethnic groups. Courting international recognition, they vow to protect the Hazaras as a show of their acceptance of the country’s minorities.
The Taliban initially confiscated weapons that Hazaras had used to guard some of their own mosques in Kabul. But after devastating IS bombings of Shiite mosques in Kandahar and Kunduz provinces in October, the Taliban returned the weapons in most cases, Gawhari and other community leaders said. The Taliban also provide their own fighters as guards for some mosques during Friday prayers.
The Hazaras’ turn to Taliban protection shows how terrified the community is of the Islamic State group, which they say aims to exterminate them. In past years, IS has attacked the Hazaras more ruthlessly than the Taliban ever did, unleashing bombings against Hazara schools, hospitals and mosques, killing hundreds.
IS is also the Taliban’s enemy, frequently attacking Taliban forces
This new Taliban is markedly different from the Taliban of 20 years ago. This time around, its leaders want to be part of regional and global politics. It seems, during the Doha conferences, they realized that their resumption of power in Afghanistan now needs international recognition – they realized that to survive, they must rule, not terrorize.
The United States actually made the Taliban a security guarantor when it signed the Doha accord with the Islamist group. If the Taliban could be a security guarantor for the so-called superpower, then why not for other countries? Is this not enough argument for the rest of the world to justify and recognize Taliban rule?