Taliban mark year in power that has given Afghanistan security but little hope
The Taliban marked a year in power on Monday with celebrations by the group's fighters and leaders as Afghanistan struggles with rising poverty, drought, malnutrition and fading hope among women that they will have a decisive role in the country's future.
Some people fired celebratory gunshots in the air in Kabul and Taliban fighters gathered, waving the group's black and white flag to mark a year since they marched into the capital after a stunning series of battlefield victories.
A few hundred people, including supporters, soldiers, and officials gathered at the square in front of the U.S. Embassy to mark the day.
In a ceremony attended by Taliban government ministers, acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said their rule had brought security where the United States had failed and said the group wanted positive relationships with the world.
The country is physically safer than it was when the hardline Islamist movement was fighting against U.S.-led foreign forces and their Afghan allies, although a local offshoot of the Islamic State has carried out several attacks.
Yet that relative security cannot mask the scale of the challenge the Taliban face in setting Afghanistan on a path of economic growth and stability. There are huge pressures on the economy, caused in large part by the country's isolation as foreign governments refuse to recognise its rulers.
Development aid upon which the country relied so heavily has been cut as the international community demands that the Taliban respect the rights of Afghans, particularly girls and women whose access to work and education has been curtailed.
The Taliban is demanding that $9 billion in central bank reserves held overseas to be returned, but talks with the United States face hurdles, including the U.S. demands that a Taliban leader subject to sanctions step down from his position as second in command at the bank.
The Taliban refuse to cede to these demands, saying that they respect all Afghans' rights within the framework of their interpretation of Islamic law.
And until there is a major shift in either side's position, there is no immediate fix in sight for spiralling prices, rising joblessness and hunger that would get worse as winter sets in.