The Taliban leadership claimed for days that no celebrations were planned for 15 August, when their fighters entered the capital.
A senior figure explained to us that this was for you and the West. “We celebrate 31 August, the day that we kicked out the foreign forces,” a senior figure told us.
Whether they were organized or not, the Taliban were on the streets since the early hours of the morning.
Their arrival was first visible from the rooftop exactly one year ago. I could see the white and black flags on trucks, cars and motorcycles as they travelled along the roads, honking their horns.
Although this was supposed to be a day for celebration by the Taliban I didn’t see large crowds clapping their 12-month-old success.
There were only a few convoys of loyal supporters and a lot of heavily armed fighters.
One year ago, the Taliban could not believe that they had taken Kabul so easily. They were celebrating then, and they are still celebrating now. They declared the day a new public holiday, Independence Day. Then they went out in their iconic pick-up trucks to capture armoured vehicles left behind the United States and its NATO allies.
This conquering army was NATO’s biggest failure. A group of men from Helmand Province travelled to the capital and told us that they knew it would happen.
When I asked them about the meaning of the anniversary, they said that “Yes, this would happen”, and that they were 100 percent certain we would take Kabul Afghanistan .
“The foreign army was attacking us, but we knew we would win again one day and celebrate.”
A year later, the Taliban maintained a tradition of televised media events.
The event was open to international media but was overwhelmingly attended only by senior officials and loyalists.
Security checks and special forces soldiers were on hand to guard the doors, but they could not stop people who wanted to enter the packed auditorium next to the United States Embassy. This is the Green Zone, which was built by foreign forces over 20-years ago.
A handful of mostly foreign female journalists, producers and photographers attended this overwhelmingly male gathering.
Dominique Van Heerden, my producer, was initially told that women must go upstairs to watch from a balcony. After a few minutes, we realized this was absurd and she went down to join a small group in the main hall.
The Taliban guards were unsure what to do with the Taliban guards, particularly since they can’t touch or throw them out. So they refused to leave.
The audience includes some of the most prominent names in the movement. They are basically Taliban royalty, Anas Haqqani (a strong 28-year-old leader and negotiator with USA in Doha), and Anas Haqqani (a negotiator).
The press corps was eager to get pictures of him upon his arrival. He sat just by chance right behind me.
Flunkies begged him to move to the front, to the VIP seating that was reserved for people like him.
My Afghan producer said to me that he wanted to stay there because he wasn’t going anywhere else for the entire event.
My producer suggested that we interview him. He swallowed hard, and then said, “Stuart! It’s better if he asks me and I translate.”
The Haqqani family is very powerful and, to all Afghans very frightening. I sat down and introduced myself to him, asking if we could interview each other. He looked at me closely and asked “What about?” “.
I spoke of the possible significance of the day and the human rights and economic problems facing his government in the eyes of Westerners.
He replied, “You have two questions and then I go.”
After approximately 45 minutes, he touched me on the shoulder to indicate that I was going outside.
Sky News’ team made a mass exit from the auditorium.
Sky News interviewed him and he suggested that there might be compromises on the issue. However, he explained that girls need to have time.
He said that there is no politics involved in this and that the issue will be resolved with time.
“We ask the international community, as well as other institutions, to refrain from using it in any way that is negative or against us. It should not be a condition of aid.”
Although this is complex stuff, it’s important for Haqani family members – an ultra-conservative bunch – because it makes a huge difference.
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It would be a leap of faith for Western governments to accept this. There is growing consensus among some governments and NGO’s that it would be unacceptable to do nothing and let thousands die from starvation, medical shortages and the freezing cold of winter here.
However, back on the streets, the foot soldiers who were celebrating outside the now defunct US Embassy, a symbol for the failed campaign against Afghanistan, all these complex issues don’t really matter.
Many of these Taliban were actually infants when the war began.
They’re in complete control of the world, 21 years and a trillion dollars later.