In a surreal scene, Taliban fighters held an Afghan TV presenter at gunpoint in his studio as he told the public not to fear the Taliban.
Footage obtained by Hillel Neuer appears to show the host of the 'Peace Studio,' a political debate program broadcasting out of Kabul, said that the "Islamic Emirate," the new name of the country as proclaimed by the Taliban, wants the public to "cooperate with it" and "should not be afraid."
The Taliban's track record of murdering TV presenters, including targeted violence against female journalists, is of grave cause for concern. While bodies like UNICEF take the Taliban's reassurances about women’s rights at face value, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report they have already taken female TV presenters off the air and beaten several journalists.
As US and NATO allies' evacuation operations wind down and the last American troops pull out from Hamid Karzai International Airport ahead of the August 31st withdrawal deadline, much remains uncertain about Afghanistan's future.
The Taliban are keen to maintain public support in the face of the emergence of an emboldened affiliate of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K, which carried out a suicide attack that killed at least 169 people, including 13 US military service personnel.
ISIS-K considers the Taliban, noted for its brutality, insufficiently devout in its adherence to Islam. Both militant groups have attacked one another.
The Taliban deployed extra forces around Kabul’s airport to prevent large crowds from gathering after a deadly suicide attack two days earlier. Other areas where large crowds amassed for the past two weeks were also largely empty over fears of another strike.
With the Taliban cordoning off the airport and only allowing a maximum of two members per family to cross checkpoints, the window of opportunity to leave Afghanistan is rapidly closing.
Hamdiya, a 20-year-old Afghan student, added that women not accompanied by male relatives encounter extraordinary hostility from Taliban shooters. "Sometimes I wish I were a man," she said, adding, "I am failing," when asked about her first attempt to get he mother and sister out of Kabul.
"It is very painful," said Hamdiya, whose mother was also injured in the ISIS-K bombing on Thursday.
When the Taliban last controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, brutal suppression of dissent of Afghanistan's non-Muslim and non-Pashtun ethnic minorities and Afghan woman was commonplace. The organization claims to have modernized its views and has at times struck a more 'moderate' tone.
Several countries, such as China, Russia and Turkey, have pledged to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government. Turkey and Qatar will jointly operate the Kabul international airport after the US withdraws on August 31.
Turkish officials said maintaining a presence in Afghanistan protects Turkish commercial and political interests, including preventing a wave of refugees from entering Turkey seeking asylum in Europe.
Turkey was close to striking a deal with the US to continue the Afghanistan mission, but that also fell through following the Taliban takeover of the country.