I love the smell of “freedom” in the morning.
The reclusive Taliban chief, in a rare public appearance, Sunday hailed what he said was the return of security and the Islamic system to Afghanistan after his hardline group seized power last August.
“Congratulations on this victory, freedom and success,” Hibatullah Akhundzada told several thousand worshippers at the central mosque in the southern city of Kandahar. He spoke at the start of three days of Eid al-Fitr festivities to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The second largest Afghan city is known as the Taliban’s birthplace and de facto power center.
And they seem very confident about it too.
Akhundzada was making his first public speech since the takeover. He delivered the brief address without turning to face the worshippers.
An eyewitness told VOA the compound was heavily guarded, with machine-gun positions on the roof of the mosque around the dome and under construction towers next to the building. A large number of Taliban soldiers were deployed in and outside of the house of worship and Russian-made MI-17 helicopters and a Cessna aircraft hovered over the mosque when Akhundzada was delivering his speech.
Akhundzada is apparently still determined to remain in hiding. Not exactly the image of a leader claiming victory. While he might not be turning around to avoid being captured on camera, the machine guns, MI-17s and the Cessna aren’t there for us (no one expects Biden to authorize a hit anyway), they’re for fellow Islamists.
The Taliban boss is way too insecure in his terror group’s control to let down his guard for a moment in his own power base. What does that say about the Taliban?