Twenty years after they were ousted, the Taliban are once again in control of Afghanistan. They swiftly returned to power as the United States was winding down its decades-long presence in the country, where it spent hundreds of billions of dollars to build up the Afghan government and its defense forces.
As the Taliban, whose first reign was marked by brutal repression, struggle to put a government in place, throngs of people have massed outside the Kabul airport desperate to get out of the country.
The Taliban have suggested that the extremism that marked their first time in power is a thing of the past. But their promises have not always matched the actions of their fighters on the streets. Afghans protesting the Taliban takeover have been met with force, sometimes deadly.
The demonstrations themselves are remarkable evidence that while tens of thousands are now seeking to escape, others are determined to have a voice in what kind of country they have.
The day after protests in two other cities were met with violence, rallies broke out in the capital, Kabul, and at least one other city. A troubled evacuation from Kabul slowly gathered pace.
Pro-government protesters, below, chanted “Death to Pakistan,” which has aided the Taliban, and raised an Afghan government flag in the capital, Kabul, as they rallied in celebration of Afghan Independence Day.
A truckload of Taliban fighters drove through the pro-government rally.
Afghans who wanted to flee the country tried to make it through Taliban checkpoints to the international airport in Kabul.
Among those trying to leave Afghanistan were families with young children.
In addition to Independence Day, Thursday was the Shiite holiday of Ashura, which is marked by ritual bloodletting.
President Biden said that the United States was committed to evacuating every American from Afghanistan, even if that meant extending the military mission beyond his initial Aug. 31 deadline. And, in his first video address since he fled Afghanistan, former President Ashraf Ghani said he had left the country to avoid a lynching by the Taliban, and vowed to return.
Below, a Taliban fighter threatened a woman who was lined up with her family in the hope of getting to the airport.
Crowds trying to flee the country gathered at the airport’s entrance gates.
Streets were noticeably quiet in central Kabul. On one was a defaced poster of Mr. Ghani.
A market scene in central Kabul.
At a beauty salon in Kabul, images of women had been defaced.
Pressure mounted on the Biden administration to do more to evacuate thousands of Afghan allies. The Taliban sought to present themselves to the world as responsible stewards of Afghanistan. And the U.S. military tried to restore order at Kabul’s international airport.
Below, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman, addressed reporters at the group’s first news conference in Kabul.
Members of the Taliban filmed the news conference.
Armed Taliban fighters outside their news conference.
Zahra Nabi, a journalist working for Bano TV, with Taliban fighters at a checkpoint after the news conference.
Taliban officials arranged a Taliban flag before the news conference.
Fears intensified about a return to the Taliban’s brutal rule and the threat of reprisal killings. Kabul’s international airport was a scene of desperation, sadness and panic.
Below, people gathering outside the airport in Kabul.
People climbed over the boundary wall of the airport, hoping to flee the country.
People massed on the tarmac and climbed on top of a plane.
An American soldier pointed his weapon toward men at the airport.
Desperate to flee, Afghans ran alongside a U.S. military plane.
The Afghan president fled the country, the government crumbled, and the U.S. military raced to evacuate diplomats and civilians from an increasingly panicked Kabul.
Below, Taliban fighters in Kabul on a Humvee seized from Afghan forces.
Taliban fighters taking control of the Afghan presidential palace after the Mr. Ghani fled the country.
A man was trampled by a crowd outside a bank in Kabul, as hundreds rushed to withdraw cash.
People flooded the terminal at the airport in Kabul, trying to fly out of the country.
A U.S. Chinook helicopter flew over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.