The year was under the Taliban

The First Five Years: The Fate of the Taliban and its Implications for the United States and the Afghans for a Better Tomorrow

KABUL, Afghanistan — She was a girl of just 5 when the Taliban took over Afghanistan the first time, and her parents did not hesitate: With the militants bent on imposing a puritanical form of Islam, the family packed their bags and fled.

The new government was quick to assure anyone that the Taliban of the 2020s was not the Taliban of the 1990s and that there wouldn’t be a brutal campaign against the women of Afghanistan.

Maybe they were telling the truth, Nilaab thought. She hoped so. She had returned to her homeland as a teenager after a decade in exile, and she was not eager to repeat the experience.

He was curious about what had changed since his first visit in 2020, but he was still in touch with some of the people he met.

Kabul and other towns have been busy with commerce since the first significant pause in conflict for decades. There are still shops and restaurants open. Battered autos throng the roads. Electricity is in short supply, but generators keep lights on in hotels and the homes of those who can afford them.

Afghanistan is still not safe, despite being not the most dangerous country in the world. “My advice is: do thorough research, get a very good local guide, respect the culture which you are visiting, be kind to people (and) follow the rules.

The co-director of the Afghans For A Better Tomorrow says that travelers may be interested in the country but they are not necessarily interested in the people.

The Taliban are desperate for a positive portrayal of their brutal and disastrous reign and are a pariah around the globe.

The biggest hub for international flights in and out of Afghanistan is the United Arab Emirates. There are 16 flights a week to Kabul International Airport from Dubai and another three from Abu Dhabi.

There are direct flights from Istanbul, Turkey, as well as from thePakistani capital of Islamabad, as well as from Saudi Arabia. Land borders with Uzbekistan, Iran and Tajikistan are also open.

The State Department has stated that traveling to all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe and that the risk of kidnapping is high for US citizens in Afghanistan. The US government is not able to provide emergency citizen services in Afghanistan and our ability to assist detained US citizens is extremely limited.”

The Untamed Borders: Traveling to Afghanistan Post-Taliban cmb-intl-hnk

As international sanctions bite, famine, collapsing healthcare and worsening sanitation bring their own consequences, as do the frequent natural disasters that blight the country.

“The vast majority of travel insurance policies sold will not provide cover and the policy is void or not in place if you go to a country that is on a government ‘Do Not Travel’ status,” Andrew Jernigan, CEO of travel insurance company Insured Nomads, tells CNN.

In situations like these, Insured Nomads offers a “World Explorer Hotspot” plan that begins at $810 per individual for one week. The plan includes a range of services such as hostage rescue, special ops and crisis response 24/7.

James Willcox, co-founder of tourism company Untamed Borders, has been leading groups to Afghanistan since 2008. The first time he was under the Taliban was in the fall of 2022.

Although that may seem puzzling for outsiders who have seen images of strife on TV, Willcox says that “as far as security is concerned in Afghanistan, the major anti-government group is now the government.”

As a result, he and his clients have been able to visit more parts of the country than they could before, namely one-time Taliban bastion Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

The Untamed Borders spent a lot of time in hotels, homes, and pop up tents in the valley known for the Buddha statues that were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

While there were restaurants and cafes open in Kabul and other cities, the group ate dinner at their homestays to avoid venturing out at night in rural regions.


Traveling with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, or Why a guy like Willcox, or a journalist like Ili, would never go anywhere else

Willcox also had the group travel around in regular cars instead of SUVs or tricked-out Jeeps. He knew his clients would be less attention getting if they used the same type of vehicles as he did.

Iličić and the driver and translator he hired stayed in small, locally owned hotels and homestays. He says he loved one of the Afghan national dishes, kabuli pilaw, a lamb and rice pilaf, and ate it “every day,” while also sampling kebabs and street food in Kabul last fall.

Willcox and Ilii were able to visit new regions of the country when they returned, and they also took a trip to the Minaret of jam, a 12th-century structure in remote Ghor province.

Still, there were last-minute wrinkles. It was very difficult to get permission to visit from the local leadership when everyone was closed on Fridays for the Muslim day of worship.

Willcox said security check points still exist in Afghanistan, though they are being staffed by Taliban fighters instead of foreign military personnel.

“Obviously nothing’s been rebuilt (because) there’s no money. Willcox says everything looks the same other than the Taliban flags. The Taliban fighters had no interest in us at the checkpoint.

Iličić feels that the Taliban were interested in his vlogging and saw it as an opportunity to get good PR. At a checkpoint in Bamiyan, he says, he was invited in for tea and a chat.


Women in the public sphere: what it takes to protect women in the country to be respectable, or should women be allowed to roam freely in Afghanistan?

The Taliban has increasingly limited the public sphere of women since taking power, restricting them from workplaces, educational institutions and even public parks.

Willcox says it is up to the guide to make sure female tourists are respectable. “The guys are responsible for upholding certain values and if they don’t, they’re shamed.”

Willcox believes that there are different types of freedom for women and tourists in Afghanistan. They can mix freely and talk to local women about their life in the country.

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