If the front pages and lead broadcasts of the international media are predominantly about the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is not without good reasons. A nervous sea of humanity which is apprehensively waiting to hear any good news out of that hapless Central Asian country is only being told about what it already knows — of a primitive and ruthless gang trying to impose its will on a frightened population and with sporadic reports of resistance which is matched by unimagined brutality. The political and media pundits along with ideological hacks are all over on what went wrong, the similarities and differences with Vietnam, the loss of American prestige and credibility and if Washington’s abrupt pullout sends all the wrong signals to staunch allies like Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
The initial reports coming out of Kabul are mixed even though no one is willing to give the Taliban a blanket credit for any change in their attitudes or styles of governing. Friday prayers are said to have gone off peacefully which itself is good news and that there has been no armed presence of the Taliban in front of mosques. That said there are also wire stories from reputed agencies that speak of the Taliban going on a door-to-door inspection and at times even forcefully dragging people out of their homes. The NATO is saying that about 18,000 Afghans have been taken out of the country but the somber news from the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees is that most of the people are unable to leave and are in danger as they have “no clear way out.” Thousands are still thronging the Kabul International Airport with the Taliban urging people not to leave home unless they have legal travel documents.