The Taliban celebrated the first anniversary of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan with victory chants and a military parade showcasing equipment left behind by US-led forces.
Afghanistan’s new rulers – not formally recognized by any other nation – have reimposed their harsh version of Islamic law on the impoverished country, with women squeezed out of public life.
Despite the restrictions, and a deepening humanitarian crisis, many Afghans say they are glad the foreign forces that prompted the Taliban insurgency left after a brutal 20-year war.
“We are happy that Allah got rid of the infidels from our country, and the Islamic Emirate has been established,” said Zalmai, a resident of Kabul.
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In a statement, the government said the day marked “the country’s freedom from American occupation”.
“So many mujahideen were wounded, so many children orphaned, and so many women became widows.”
The authorities held an official celebration that included a military parade at Bagram Airbase, the nerve center of US operations during the war.
Groups of Taliban fighters – dressed in traditional shalwar kameez and carrying rocket-propelled grenades – marched as helicopters flew by, video footage aired by state television showed.
Minutes later, dozens of military vehicles including humvees and artillery tanks, seized in the war or left behind by US forces during their chaotic withdrawal, were paraded.
Foreign media outlets were not given access to the event.
Celebrations were also held in several provinces, with locals reading poems and verses from the holy Koran.
Victory chants were heard in Kabul
Banners celebrating victories against three empires – the former Soviet Union and Britain also lost wars in Afghanistan – flew in Kabul.
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Hundreds of white Taliban flags bearing the Islamic proclamation of faith flew from lamp posts and government buildings, while squares in the capital were decorated with lights.
Kabul residents chose to stay indoors after the authorities declared a national holiday, but hundreds of Taliban fighters gathered at Massoud Square, next to the now shut US embassy.
“Death to America! Death to the occupation! Long live freedom!” chanted the fighters.
“The flag of Islam is flying high. We are happy to live under the banner of Islam,” claims Taliban fighter Shah Ahmad Omari.