The swift return of the Taliban to power has sparked panic in Afghanistan and sent shockwaves around the world. With U.S. military forces taking control of the Kabul airport and the evacuation of foreign nationals and thousands of Afghans proceeding, important questions loom about the future of Afghanistan and the impact of the convulsive events that unfolded over the past few days.
Here are some of the major unknowns going forward, the answers to which, as they emerge over the coming weeks, months and years, will determine how exactly the radical group’s return will reshape the country, the region and, very likely, the world.
The first, most immediate question is how Taliban 2.0 compares to the version that ruled from 1996 until 2001. Will today’s rulers dismantle every bit of progress made in Afghanistan over the past 20 years on women’s rights and individual freedoms? The group’s leaders insist they have changed, but experience suggests this may be more of a ploy to keep the peace until they consolidate power. Already there are reports of women being told to stay home, of female journalists being forced into hiding and of the Taliban beating and murdering women.