By Enyichukwu Enemanna
The Taliban have declared a national holiday in Afghanistan to commemorate its first anniversary since return to power.
Exactly a year ago, the group captured Kabul after their nationwide lightning offensive against government forces ended 20 years of US-led military invasion.
A chaotic withdrawal of foreign forces continued until August 31, with tens of thousands of people rushing to Kabul’s airport hoping to be evacuated on any flight out of Afghanistan.
Images of crowds storming the airport, climbing atop aircraft – and some clinging to a departing US military cargo plane as it rolled down the runway – aired on news bulletins around the world.
“We fulfilled the obligation of jihad and liberated our country,” said Niamatullah Hekmat on Monday.
He is a fighter who entered Kabul on August 15 last year just hours after then-president Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Authorities have not announced any official celebrations yet to mark the anniversary, but state television said it would air special programmes.
Taliban fighters, however, expressed happiness that their movement was now in power.
“The time when we entered Kabul, and when the Americans left, those were moments of joy,” said Hekmat, now a member of the special forces guarding the presidential palace.
In the last one year, while Afghans acknowledge a decline in violence since the Taliban seized power, many Afghans continue to struggle to overcome many challenges, including rising prices.
“People coming to our shops are complaining so much of high prices that we shopkeepers have started hating ourselves,” said Noor Mohammad, a shopkeeper from Kandahar, the de facto power centre of the Taliban.
For Taliban fighters, however, the joy of victory overshadows the current economic crisis.
“We might be poor, we might be facing hardships, but the white flag of Islam will now fly high forever in Afghanistan”, said a fighter guarding a public park in Kabul