Taliban fighters sit on a vehicle along the street in Jalalabad province on August 15, 2021. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Source: Frances Martel

Hundreds of civilians in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, took the streets on Wednesday to protest the replacement of the national flag in public spaces with the emblem of the Taliban, prompting Taliban jihadists to open fire into the crowd.

Jalalabad was reportedly the last city in Afghanistan to fall to the Taliban before the dramatic seizure of Kabul, the national capital, this weekend. The unrest in that city, captured on camera in images published by the Afghan news agency Pajhwok, appears to be the first major incident of widespread protests against Taliban rule.

The Taliban governed Afghanistan prior to the American invasion in 2001, prompted by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After 20 years of war, American operations had failed to install a competent government in Kabul and quell Taliban resistance, prompting negotiations between Washington and Taliban leaders in Qatar last year. Under President Donald Trump, the two sides agreed to a deal that would have resulted in American troops definitively leaving the country on May 1 in exchange for Taliban leaders cutting ties to international terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, the architects of the September 11 attacks, and ceasing aggression against American troops.

President Joe Biden broke the deal in April, triggering a national Taliban campaign to overthrow the corrupt U.S.-backed government. The campaign ended on Sunday with the arrival of Taliban fighters to Kabul and the abrupt flight of now-former President Ashraf Ghani. The Taliban declared victory and control over the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” that night.

The Jalalabad protest significantly damages attempts by Taliban leaders to present themselves as the people’s choice of government. Images published by Pajhwok show what appear to be hundreds of protesters carrying the national flag of Afghanistan through the streets, marching in support of the defunct republic. The protesters do not appear to be armed or engaging in any violence. They ultimately attempted to fly the flag over the city.

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