Albuquerque Journal

In Kabul, some fear economic collapse more than Taliban fist


KABUL, Afghanista­n — At a pizzeria in downtown Kabul, the staff and customers alike are anxious about Afghanista­n’s new Taliban rulers.

Some, however, said they are more worried about economic collapse and being unable to feed their families than about having to grow long beards — a practice from the Taliban’s previous time in power.

Others fear for the future of their children, or were spooked by the panic on display when tens of thousands of foreigners and Afghans fled in a mammoth airlift over the past two weeks.

With full Taliban control about to become a reality with a Tuesday deadline for the final U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanista­n, exit plans are still being hatched.

“I have to run away so I can feed my family,” said Mustafa, a waiter at another nearby fast-food place who had come to the pizzeria for tea and a chat with friends among the staff.

Mustafa, who like many in Afghanista­n only uses one name, said he has a family of 11 to support and is toying with the idea of seeking work in neighborin­g Iran. He said his salary has been cut by 75% to less than $50 a month since the Taliban overran Kabul and business dried up.

Pizzeria owner Mohammad Yaseen said daily sales have plummeted, and that at this pace, he won’t be able to cover the rent.

Yaseen has been sifting through old emails, searching for a foreign acquaintan­ce who might help him resettle abroad, “It’s not for me I want to leave, but for my children,” he said.

Still, there’s a sense of a return to business as usual across much of the Afghan capital of more than 5 million people, in sharp contrast to the harrowing scenes at the Kabul airport where thousands surged toward the gates for days, hoping for an opportunit­y to leave.

In much of Kabul, the usual chaotic traffic is back and markets have opened.

At traffic stops and roundabout­s, the same police who served in the Washington-allied government of President Ashraf Ghani are still waving their hands in an often futile attempt to rein in the chaos.

Taliban fighters have taken up positions in front of most government ministries. Some are in camouflage uniforms, while others wear the traditiona­l Afghan dress of baggy pants and long tunic. Outside the Afghan National Bank, thousands are lined up, five and six abreast, trying to withdraw money.

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