Taliban soldiers have made a shocking appearance on national television as Afghanistan reels from the collapse of the government and the militant group’s brutal takeover.
The nation has descended into chaos in recent weeks, with the exit of US troops and the toppling of the government by the extremist organisation, which saw President Ashraf Ghani flee Kabul fearing execution by the Taliban.
The country was also rocked by a horrific terror attack at Kabul airport last week, which left more than 100 dead, including more than a dozen US soldiers.
But a viral clip shared on Twitter recently perhaps best demonstrates just how rapidly things have changed for the people of Afghanistan.
In the footage, the host of Afghan TV network Peace Studio’s Pardaz political debate program addresses his audience, reading a statement from the Taliban while two heavily armed fighters stand menacingly behind him.
It was shared by BBC anchor Yalda Hakim, among others, and while the footage is not in English and does not come with subtitles, Ms Hakim said the host can be heard discussing the fall of the government – and saying that “the Afghan people should not … be afraid”.
Ms Hakim described the situation as “surreal”, saying “This is what a political debate now looks like on Afghan TV, Taliban foot soldiers watching over the host.”
The reporter, who escaped Afghanistan as a child with her family before settling in Australia, has also had a brush with the Taliban recently, after spokesman Suhail Shaheen called her mobile phone while she was conducting an interview on air on the BBC.
She transferred him to speaker, allowed him to read a statement and then hit him with a slew of questions, earning her praise for her poise under extraordinary circumstances.
During the interview, Mr Shaheen promised the Taliban would bring “peace” and claimed the Taliban will respect the rights of women and allow them access to education.
“There should not be any confusion, we are sure the people of Afghanistan in the city of Kabul, that their properties and their lives are safe. There will be no revenge on anyone. We are the servants of the people and of this country,” he said.
“Our leadership has instructed our forces to remain at the gate of Kabul, not to enter the city. We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power.
“Of course, we want Islamic government.”
Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad also weighed in on the clip on Twitter, posting that: “Taliban itself is synonymous with fear in the minds of millions. This is just another proof. I call on President Biden to watch this and let us know if these militants posing behind this visibly petrified TV host are holding American weapons.”