There is an orphanage on the outskirts of the city of Kandahar that reflects the harsh reality of the most violent province in Afghanistan. In the complex, sponsored by the United Arab Emirates, children of the civil servants, the civilian population and the dead Taliban coexist. Most of the 1,100 children, of whom 200 are inmates, are victims of the war. The director, Mohammad Barat Hussein, 54, tells it during a visit, who assures that he has a waiting list of 800 people. The kids – all boys – play soccer or watch television after class in peaceful, clean, and free facilities. Nothing to do with what is lived out of doors.
Kandahar, the quintessential Taliban fiefdom and spiritual capital of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, fell to the insurgency, like the rest of the country, last month. This province, a constant scene of attacks, attacks and hundreds of assassinations almost always carried out by the Taliban, has been in the last 20 years one of the toughest bones to crack for the international coalition led by the United States that took to its heels in August. . On Tuesday, August 17, the co-founder of the Taliban and leader of the political wing, Abdulghani Baradar, landed in Afghanistan. He did it to cheers not in Kabul, the official capital, but in Kandahar, its capital. Today he is the deputy prime minister.
“The Taliban are not professional people, but when we call them they come and with the previous government it was all problems,” says businessman Qari Gul Mohammed, satisfied, who earns around a million dollars a year. He does not hesitate to say that, with them in power, he feels safer. In addition to having four companies that export nuts outside of Afghanistan, this influential 50-year-old businessman has been one of the negotiators between the Taliban and the deposed authorities. He was part of a group of 12 notables, six from the economic sector and six from the religious sector, who moved behind the scenes from one side to the other. An attempt to carry through the pact what, in the end, was solved by shooting. In the midst of the fighting, he traveled twice to Kabul to the residence of former President Hamid Karzai, a native of Kandahar, to try to help him in his mediation mission. He also spoke with the head of Defense of the government chaired by Ashraf Ghani. All while meeting with the Taliban leaders.
Long ago, night has fallen on Kandahar and a crew of laborers is busy moving hundreds of kilos of raisins by hand in a ship to be packaged. They are some of the 300 workers who, for about 60 euros a month, Gul employs. The machinery has not stopped even in the worst moments of the conflict, although it recognizes that with the local airport without international flights and the border crossing with Pakistan at half gas, the task is not being easy. In any case, both he and the rest of local businessmen are presented as a useful tool for the take-off of the internal economy after the country’s accounts abroad continue to be blocked and international aid frozen, except for some allies, waiting recognition of the regime.
In this city of 600,000 inhabitants – the second in the country after Kabul – it is not surprising that this small, kind and diligent man stops the interview twice to pray. Nor that, no matter how pious he may be, what he is looking for is the best for his companies. It clarifies, in any case, that 2.5% of its profit is dedicated to the zakat (alms in Arabic), but that he has never helped the Taliban financially, nor have they claimed it from him.
He claims that the 20 years that have passed under the United States and the international coalition “we had money, but no security.” Now he hopes to have both. During the worst days of the negotiations, he was detained for 48 hours by the secret services due to his proximity to the insurgency. But it was the provincial governor himself who was released, shortly before the Taliban took the government representative from his home and dropped him off at the airport to fly to Kabul. The taking of the city had been consummated and the agreement, according to Qari Gul Mohammed, was not to kill him. The same happened with dozens of officials and men of the Ghani government, including Mahmud Karzai, brother of the former president, whom this businessman assures that he protected even with his own kalashnikov until the Taliban facilitated their departure from Kandahar.
“The only thing the Taliban are going to bring is peace and bread”
Sanaullah Momand, 24-year-old Bachelor of Public Administration
The conservative character of the city is reflected even among the most educated young people, who speak languages and who do not embrace the new regime with their eyes closed. “The only thing the Taliban are going to bring is peace and bread,” says Sanaullah Momand, a 24-year-old Public Administration graduate who works as an administrative officer at the university and who does not believe that this pairing is enough to maintain long-term stability. .
Momand has translated a score of books from English into Pashto, including some by Stephen Hawking. Despite the pessimistic tone in his answer when asked about the new regime, he is attached to the deepest traditions anchored to the sharia (Islamic law). He is aware that cultural and religious differences create a gap with the West, but still recognizes that he would like to leave his country. “Do Muslims who live in Spain also go to the beach naked?” Is just one of the questions that he asks the journalist along with others about the standard of living, family, job search or individual freedom. But it is clear that for Sanaullah Momand to go in a bathing suit is to go naked. For the vast majority of the inhabitants of Kandahar, with or without the turban men in front, too.
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