The Taliban have declared victory. Now they must reckon with a country freefalling into chaos

The last American military flight left the airport and disappeared into the Kabul sky on Monday — and minutes later, the Taliban flooded the streets around the city’s last exit point, filling the night with celebratory gunfire.
It was a decisive and humbling final chapter to the United States’ longest war, a two-decade effort that unraveled spectacularly in the space of a few weeks.
Standing on the runway on Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid framed the militant group’s dramatic takeover of Afghanistan as a nationalist success, telling a small crowd: “This victory belongs to us all.”

But for thousands of Afghans, the final Western flights took with them a last chance to leave the country. Many now fear their new realities; in particular, women, religious minorities, LGBTQ people, journalists and others face brutal treatment under the group’s radical interpretation of Sharia Law.

And for the Taliban’s leaders, a rapid transition to national governance beckons. The group has no experience of running a traditional administration, and showed little familiarity with geopolitics during its five-year reign two decades ago. Their sincerity and capability now has repercussions for 38 million Afghans, many of whom will be displaced or thrust into economic crisis.
Afghanistan is a very different country to the one the Taliban ruled between 1996 and 2001. Most Afghans don’t even remember that era — more than 60% of the country is aged under 25. It is urbanizing, diverse, and better connected to the world, all of which place it in stark contrast to the war-torn nation the Taliban conquered 25 years ago.

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