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Ghosts of Afghanistan: The search for peace amid the Taliban rule

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The speed at which the Taliban have retaken Afghanistan has taken everyone by surprise. How could it happen? What went wrong with “the good war,” and what comes next?

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The West invaded Afghanistan in 2001 with promises of democracy, freedom and women’s rights. It was a disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Corruption and abuses were endemic. As a young and idealistic war correspondent, Graeme Smith followed the troops into battle in Afghanistan. Now he returns to a place that gave him nightmares to see if there is hope for peace. Smith revisits old friends and acquaintances and sees the deep divisions in the country.

Afghan women wait to receive free wheat donated by the Afghan government during a quarantine, amid concerns about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kabul. (Reuters)
Afghan women wait to receive free wheat donated by the Afghan government during a quarantine, amid concerns about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kabul. (Reuters)

Afghanistan’s human rights investigator

Shaharzad Akbar, the country’s top human rights investigator, calls out abuses by both the Taliban and the government. Outspoken women at Kabul University are determined to hold onto their hard-won rights and liberties in the face of any return of the Taliban. By contrast, in Kandahar, burqa-clad women explain why they do not fear the Taliban.

Young Taliban now tech savvy

But what do the Taliban say about how they will govern Afghanistan? Smith makes a remarkable journey to visit them at their unofficial headquarters in Doha, Qatar. The movement that once banned television and cameras now has a young generation of modern leaders who post videos on the Taliban’s official website and use social media to spread their message.

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