Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan more than three and a half months ago amid the chaotic withdrawal of US-led foreign forces, its members have changed roles, from fighting in the mountains and fields to becoming an armed force ruling the country.
Many Taliban infantry have now been given new jobs: manning street checkpoints and conducting security patrols in and around Afghan cities.
Last month, several Taliban fighters posed for portrait photographs for the Associated Press news agency at night patrols and at checkpoints in the western city of Herat.
One of them, 21-year-old Ahmad Wali, was on patrol in the village of Kamar Kalagh, north of Herat. A student at an Islamic religious school known as a “madrassa,” he said, joining the Taliban because he was against the US presence in his country and against the former Afghan government, which was widely criticized for corruption.
Now, he said he is very busy with his new responsibilities creating security in the area he was assigned. He hopes both he and his country will have a bright future, saying he was “99 percent sure” better days will come to all people in Afghanistan.
Following the Taliban’s takeover in mid-August, Afghanistan’s already dilapidated and aid-dependent economy has slipped into a regular crisis. The international community has withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in funding that the country of 38 million people has relied on. Billions of dollars in Afghan assets abroad have been frozen.
Afghanistan’s banking system has been largely cut off from the world, and the new Taliban rulers have been largely unable to pay wages while jobs throughout the economy have disappeared.
Women have mostly been excluded from the labor market, except in certain occupations, and from high school education, while tens of thousands of people, including highly educated professionals, have fled or are trying to flee Afghanistan, which has led to a massive brain drain.
Here are some portraits of Taliban fighters posing for pictures at various checkpoints in the western city of Herat, the third largest in Afghanistan.