Many Taliban soldiers are now in government positions after the Taliban seized power in 2021.
But some are only just discovering the pains of living in the city, the Afghan Analysts Network reported.
Five young Taliban fighters described how their lives are now consumed by work and Twitter.
Traffic, rent problems, scrolling Twitter all day, and talking to women — it’s all part of a strange new life for the men who conquered Kabul.
The Taliban captured their nation’s capital and seized power in 2021. They had promised then to take a more progressive approach compared to when they ruled in the late 1990s, saying they would allow women more freedoms and treat its citizens fairly.
Instead, the fundamentalist regime has continually cut back on allowing women to attend schools and universities, and has been killing protestors over the last year. Under Taliban rule, conditions in Afghanistan have returned to what they were in 2001, before the US invaded, retired US General Jack Keane said.
Some Taliban soldiers have been installed into positions of privilege in the government. But, whisked away from their gun-toting, rural lives as holy warriors and now clocking in as mere pieces in the ruling machine, five Taliban solders say they’ve become jaded with city life, according to a report by Sabawoon Samim, an independent researcher.
Samim’s late 2022 interviews with the five men — a commander, a sniper, a deputy commander, and two fighters — were published on February 2 by the non-profit organization Afghanistan Analysts Network, or AAN.
They portray how the five fighters, aged from 24 to 32, have gone from watching the skies for drone strikes to grappling with everyday urban battles like internet addiction and difficult bosses.
“The social influence of living in an urban context on these Taleban is noticeable,” Samim wrote in his report.
“Rural and urban, fighters and civilians, madrassa and school-educated, victors and those they now rule, women outside in public with ‘open’ faces and men whose female relatives live in purdah are all now mixing,” the researcher added.
Missing the ‘time of jihad’
“The Taliban used to be free of restrictions, but now we sit in one place, behind a desk and a computer 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Huzaifa, a 24-year-old sniper now working at a police district in Kabul, told Samim. “Life’s become so wearisome; you do the same things every day.”
Huzaifa, like his four brothers in arms, is married and has kids, according to the AAN report. All five were just children or weren’t even born when US-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. Most had never seen Kabul until 2021.
They’d spent between six and 11 years fighting for the Taliban, joining when they were teenagers, Samim wrote.
Now working in the interior ministry, Kamran, 27, a deputy group commander, still misses “the time of jihad,” he said, per the AAN report.
“Now, when someone’s nominated for a government job, he first asks whether that position has a car or not,” Kamran told Samim. “We used to live among the people. Many of us have now caged ourselves in our offices and palaces, abandoning that simple life.”
Discovering Twitter, traffic, and talking to women
Abdul Nafi, 25, a fighter now working as an executive director in the government, said he had to learn how to use a computer for his new job, per the AAN report.
Yet there isn’t much work for him to do, and so he spends most of his time on Twitter, he told Samim.
“We’re connected to speedy Wi-Fi and internet. Many mujaheddin, including me, are addicted to the internet, especially Twitter,” he said.
According to Samim, another new source of worry for Abdul Nafi is speaking with women, who international watchdogs say have had their rights repeatedly crushed since the Taliban took power. The Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islamic law means its leaders believe men and women should be segregated in public spaces.
Abdul Nafi described his astonishment at having a woman in the same computer class as him, and said he had been afraid to approach the local bazaar because of meeting women, per the report.
Huzaifa, the sniper working in the police, said he and his coworkers initially hid from women who approached them for help, because “never in our whole lives have we talked to strange women.”
The Taliban authorities had to tell them that it was legal in Islamic law to speak with the women, because it was their job as law enforcement, Huzaifa told Samim.
For Omar Mansur, a 32-year-old commander thrust into a high-ranking government position, traffic and rent are two of his biggest gripes in Kabul.
“What I don’t like about Kabul is its ever-increasing traffic holdups. Last year, it was tolerable but in the last few months, it’s become more and more congested,” he told Samim. Omar Mansur earns $180 a month, and said rent is too high for him to afford bringing his family to Kabul, even at his level of seniority.
Abdul Salam, 26, a farmer who fought for the Taliban several times, now mans road checkpoints, and complained that he felt the Taliban’s treatment of fighters worsened because the soldiers were no longer precious manpower in peacetime, according to the AAN report.
“There is a proverb in our area that money is like a shackle. Now, if we complain, or don’t come to work, or disobey the rules, they cut our salary,” he told Samim.
Salam, along with several other Taliban fighters interviewed, felt the public had also stopped respecting them.
He told Samim he tried to hitch a ride back to his home province of Kandahar. When a car stopped along the road, he found an elderly man who’d paused in his old Corolla to tell him he shouldn’t need help because he was supposed to be running the nation, he said, per the AAN report.
Samim and the Afghan Analysts Network did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
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