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Taliban fighters hold Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan flags on the first anniversary of the fall of Kabul.

REUTERS/Ali Khara

Jihadists, liberators, or administrators of Afghanistan? The Taliban respond.

The Taliban celebrated the anniversary of their return to power in Afghanistan last week.

They assembled at Bagram airbase, the last military outpost of the 20-year American occupation. Flags were hoisted, leftover US military equipment was displayed, and Taliban soldiers wore uniforms shed by fleeing forces loyal to the former government. Speeches were made, and the Quran was recited.

But not much was said about the continued suppression of women, the escalating violence, or the near-universal poverty Afghans find themselves in today.

So, where does the regime stand, and why should the international community trust the Taliban despite this dismal record? We interviewed Suhail Shaheen, the group's international spokesperson and head of its political office in Qatar. (He’s technically also the UN ambassador, but the world body doesn't recognize the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government.)

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Lviv, Ukraine.

Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Turkish Presidential Press Office via Reuters

What We're Watching: Erdogan's diplomacy, carnage at Kabul mosque, US-Taiwan trade talks

Erdogan is everywhere

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been very busy this week. On Thursday, he flew to Lviv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the Turkish president’s first visit to Ukraine since Russia’s war began six months ago. Erdogan, who has tried to position himself as an elder statesman and mediator between Kyiv and Moscow, vowed to help rebuild Ukrainian infrastructure just weeks after brokering a deal with Russia to resume Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports amid a global food crisis. The trio also discussed efforts to secure a contested nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. This comes a week after Erdogan held a face-to-face with Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, where they pledged to boost energy cooperation. What’s more, Erdogan’s Ukraine trip came just one day after Ankara announced it was restoring full diplomatic ties with Israel. Indeed, Erdogan is looking to get wins wherever he can as he tries to divert attention from Ankara’s deepening economic woes. In a move that made many economists shudder, Turkey’s central bank on Thursday further slashed interest rates to 13% despite the fact that inflation has topped a whopping 80%. Loosening monetary policy to boost growth has long been Erdogan’s shtick, but as a cost of living crisis continues to hurt Turks, his ruling party is falling in the polls less than a year out from elections.

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The Graphic Truth: Who runs the Taliban?

The Taliban have been in control of Afghanistan for a full year. But before they took over, they had a shadow government operating across vast swaths of the country, complete with a justice, policing, and tax system. After the US left, and the democratic Afghan government fled, the Taliban didn’t take long to form an “interim” government not just in Kabul but also their own “spiritual” capital of Kandahar. Today, the regime is split, with the all-important religious leadership residing in Kandahar, and the more bureaucratic, hands-on cadres in Kabul. And this comes with its political divides as well: recently the Kandahar-based supreme leader vetoed Kabul’s decision to let girls return to schools. We list the leading who’s who of the Taliban regime.

Do the Taliban even need US recognition?

Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

This week, the Kremlin hosted a summit with the Taliban that was attended by China, India and Pakistan, as well as all five Central Asian Republics.

The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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Former Central Bank Governor Ajmal Ahmady Discusses Afghanistan's Perilous Future | GZERO World

Former Central Bank Governor Ajmal Ahmady discusses Afghanistan's perilous future

Ian Bremmer speaks to exiled Afghan Central Bank Governor Ajmal Ahmady on his own harrowing escape and the perils that await the very much aid-dependent country's economy now under Taliban control.

Ian Bremmer Explains: Withdrawal From Afghanistan a Crisis of Biden’s Own Making | GZERO World

Calamitous withdrawal from Afghanistan was a crisis of Biden’s own making

Joe Biden has been looking for a way out of Afghanistan for decades, and regardless of how ugly things get, he's not turning back. After Trump reached a deal with the Taliban in 2020 to end the war, Biden decided to stick with the arrangement, overruling his own generals. Ian Bremmer explains that while he agrees with Biden's decision to get out, he did not foresee the incompetence of the execution. In that sense, the last few weeks have constituted the greatest foreign policy crisis for President Biden to date, and one that was largely self-imposed. Ian looks at four key failures led to this disaster on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Afghanistan, 2021: Afghan & US military perspectives as the last soldier leaves

Jess Frampton

Enter China, exit policeman: How the world has changed since 9/11

The world has changed dramatically since the terrorist attacks on New York And Washington on September 11, 2001. Pop culture has evolved — significantly — as have the ways we eat, communicate, work, and get our information about the world.

Geopolitically, the past two decades have been transformative, and these developments have impacted how many observers reflect on the post-9/11 era.

Here are three examples of big geopolitical shifts over the past two decades, and how they may influence our understanding of global events today.

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"I wasn't supposed to be on that plane” — former Afghan official recounts escape | GZERO World

Story of an escape from Afghanistan; "I wasn't supposed to be on that plane” - Ahmady

When Ajmal Ahmady saw the Taliban were about to take over Afghanistan, he knew it was time to get out — fast. The former central bank chief was lucky enough to board a flight, unlike so many of his fellow Afghans desperate to flee. "I was not supposed to be on that plane," Ahmady tells Ian Bremmer about his harrowing escape on this episode of GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Afghanistan, 2021: Three perspectives on the brutal close of a 20-year war

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