Afghanistan: 'Here in Kabul, it has taken less than 24 hours to turn back time 20 years'

This video contains distressing images

Watch ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine’s eyewitness report from Kabul where he spoke to a Taliban commander and saw women’s beauty salons shut as the militants took over.

The man now in charge of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Kabul is a Taliban commander who was injured five times during the 17 years he spent fighting the Americans.

Surrounded by armed colleagues, sitting in the office he took over just yesterday, Motassim Billah told me that taking back Kabul was a 20-year dream that in the end was realised surprisingly easily.

Taliban fighters are now patrolling the streets of Kabul. Credit: ITV News

The Afghan guards at this UN compound had given up without a fight. The Taliban showed us a stash of their surrendered Kalashnikovs.

Taliban fighters showed ITV News the weapons they had taken from Afghan forces. Credit: ITV News

The Taliban commander said he and his men had been warmly welcomed by Kabul residents.

In a room with the Taliban. Credit: Sean Swan/ITV News

When I suggested that the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport proved that many people here are afraid of the Taliban, he said that was the fault of the invaders who for 20 years pumped out anti-Taliban propaganda.

He appealed to all those Afghans trying to flee to stay instead.

With the Taliban back in control, women are forced to completely cover up. Credit: ITV News

“When you were standing with the foreigners you were our enemies. Now that the infidels have betrayed you, all is forgiven.”

When we flew into Kabul just yesterday morning it was the capital of a democratic republic. Today it’s the capital of an Islamic Emirate.

Motassim Billah. Credit: Sean Swan/ITV News

The Biden administration can dress this up however it likes, but Afghan women can no longer dress as they like. It’s back to the burqa and full-face coverings for them. Female servitude may well be back.

Beauty parlours and hair salons in Kabul have been boarded up as the rights of women are taken away by the Taliban. Credit: ITV News
Adverts showing women with their heads uncovered have been painted over in Kabul. Credit: ITV News

Here in Kabul it has taken less than 24 hours to turn back time 20 years.The memories of brutal repression are fresh enough for Afghans to prefer taking their chances, trying to cling to the undercarriage of US transport planes rather than stay here.