Taliban raises flag, get ready to form government, 20 years after 9/11

As the globe marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban formally raised their flag over the Afghan presidential palace in Kabul, officially marking the beginning of their governance in the conflict-torn nation. Several of their key officials are on the U.N.’s terror list and there are several questions about women’s rights and the group’s relationship with Pakistan. NPR International Correspondent Jackie Northam joins from Islamabad, Pakistan.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    As ceremonies worldwide marked the 2oth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States, the Taliban formally raised their flag over Kabul, Afghanistan yesterday.

    As the new government takes shape there, there are questions about how it will rule, the rights of women, and relations with Pakistan.

    I spoke with NPR International Correspondent Jackie Northam who was in Islamabad.

    Jackie, in this period now, what do we know about how the Pakistani government and now the Taliban government in Afghanistan are going to get along, are getting along?

  • Jackie Northam:

    Well, you know, the Taliban and the Pakistani government or the Pakistani military and Pakistan intelligence services have had a very long history together. There is some debate here about how much influence Pakistan still has on the Taliban right now. I spoke to several people in this area who had just actually one had just come back from Kabul, he's a journalist. And he said that the Taliban, they're seen as proxies in Afghanistan right now to be seen as proxies of Pakistan and they don't like it. In fact there's something that was a little joke about how they have a made in Pakistan tag on their back and they don't like it at all. They want to separate themselves from that.

    But at the same time, they do have a close relationship. The head of the ISI, the intelligence service who was in Afghanistan last week meeting with Taliban leaders, and they have a long history, so you can't fracture it. But it'll be interesting to see just how much influence Pakistan does have going forward.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    We also have other groups that are, we should say, may be jostling for power. I mean, we just had a long video released by al-Zawahiri from Al Qaeda. We still have ISIS-K that isn't happy necessarily with the Taliban government. What what are you hearing on the ground? I know you recently took a trip to Peshawar.

  • Jackie Northam:

    Yes, indeed. We're hearing a lot. I mean, the number one thing here is if the Taliban wanted to project a more moderate we're not going to let any extremists in on our soil. So they keep saying that, they said it again today, that there is no Al Qaeda operating here and we're not going to allow it.

    It's hard to say if Al Qaeda is there or not it's a big country, there's great remote areas. And there is a lot of sympathizers for Al Qaeda. You know, the same could be said here in Pakistan as well.

    ISIS-K is another story as well. It started off as sort of a sort of an offshoot, if you like, of the Taliban by a couple of permutations. And it is anti Pakistan right now, but it is also not the same camp as the Taliban either. And it's seen as both a threat to the Taliban as well as al-Qaida in a certain way. They're all sort of jostling for power right now. So the big thing is for the the Taliban is it has to put down ISIS-K because that really is its main challenger right now in Afghanistan.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Jackie, there's been a lot of concern in the West about how the Taliban decides to create policy affecting women. What has the government done so far to address any of this?

  • Jackie Northam:

    Well, just today, just today, obviously, the minister of higher education just came out with an edict that women will still be allowed to go to school, even higher education. But now the classes are going to be separated between men and women, either with physically separated, and also that women are going to have to use Islamic dress. And they didn't expand on that. So we don't know what that just means, a hijab, a headscarf or something, or if it's going to be the full burqa.

    What's interesting is because the eyes of the world are on the Taliban and watching, scrutinizing what they're doing it could be at the beginning that it could just be a headdress. But then as the days go on, in the weeks in the media spotlight dies down in that it's hard to say what we're going to see.

    The other thing that they came up with, as well as they've decided to recreate their version of the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. And I'm not sure if you recall from when they were in power before this allowed the Taliban to roam the streets. And if they felt that you weren't adhering to the purest form of Islam, they would punish you. They would whip you. And adhering to the purest form of Islam would be not flying a kite, not playing music and that kind of thing. So they've reinstated their version of that

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Finally, we had all these commemorations of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. What was it like in Pakistan?

  • Jackie Northam:

    Very quiet, actually. Very quiet. It wasn't it wasn't really marked in any way. You know, the embassies, of course, mark of the day. What was interesting is the Taliban decided that was the day that they were going to raise their flag over the presidential palace in Kabul and so and really get its new government underway at that time. So they chose September 11th to do that or take from that what you will.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    NPR's Jackie Northam joining us from Islamabad. Thanks so much.

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