I returned to Afghanistan this week, almost one year after the withdrawal of the US military cleared the way for the Taliban’s victory. I wanted to see for myself what had become of the country since I flew out of Kabul on August 15 2021, hours before the Islamists began what many residents now refer to as a “reign of terror”.
I was in the north of Afghanistan when the US invaded in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and in Kabul when the Taliban returned 20 years later. In between, I spent many years as a resident correspondent.
I left Afghanistan today after three days of cat-and-mouse with Taliban intelligence agents, who detained, abused and threatened me and forced me to issue a barely literate retraction of reports they said had broken their laws and offended Afghan culture. If I did not, they said, they’d send me to jail. At one point, they surrounded me and demanded I accompany them to prison. Throughout, a man with a gun was never far away.