Since the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan on 1 May 2021, it only took the Taliban fighters a few short days to take over Afghanistan’s civilian government, contrary to the predictions of the US intelligence analysts that said the government could stay up for weeks. With the Taliban in control, uncertainty, and fear grip Afghanistan.

In remarkable scenes broadcast on Al-Jazeera, Taliban leaders ensconced themselves in the palace only hours after Ghani fled — taking control over what was once one of the most secure locations in the country and a symbol of the nation that the United States spent so much money and sacrificed so much blood to uphold.

Though not a formal surrender, it might as well have been.

In the video, the head of the Afghan presidential security guard shook hands with a Taliban commander in one of the palace buildings and said he had accompanied the Taliban commander at the request of the senior Afghan government negotiator.

“I say welcome to them, and I congratulate them,” the official said.

Afghan officials in other cities were filmed handing over power to insurgent leaders. Former President Hamid Karzai said he had formed a council with other political leaders to coordinate a peaceful transition to a new Taliban government. Karzai also asked the head of the Presidential Protection Service to remain at his post and ensure that the palace was not looted.

Early Taliban actions in other cities under their control offered a glimpse of what the future might hold. In Kunduz, which fell on August 8, they set up checkpoints and went door to door in search of absentee civil servants, warning that any who did not return to work would be punished. The change in atmosphere in Kabul was as swift as it was frightening for many who thought that they could build a life under the protection of their U.S. allies.

Multiple countries like India, the USA, Germany, France, and Sweden are seeking to pull their nationals out amid the uncertainty. The USA is also trying to pull out the Afghan nationals who worked for the US embassy or with the US military as soon as possible. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also fled Kabul (the capital of Afghanistan) in a helicopter stuffed with cash.

The people of Afghanistan have been seen fleeing the country in the fear of the return to the Taliban’s brutal rule and the threat of reprisal killings which happened from 1996 to 2001 when the Taliban came into power. Thousands of Afghans flooded the tarmac Monday morning, at one point swarming around a departing U.S. military plane as it taxied down the runway. Images of people clinging to the hulking aircraft even as it left the ground quickly circulated the world. It seemed to capture the moment more vividly than words: a symbol of U.S. military might, flying out of the country even as Afghans hung on against all hope.

During the Taliban rule, the women had to endure the most– from the age of eight, women were not allowed to be near any male who is not a blood relative, husband, or in-law. They were not allowed to be out on the streets without a blood relative or a Burkha. The right to education was reserved only for men.

The Taliban have tried to present themselves as different from the past — they have claimed to be committed to the peace process, an inclusive government, and willing to maintain some rights for women. Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen said women would still be allowed to continue their education from primary to higher education. Shaheen also said diplomats, journalists, and non-profits could continue operating in the country.

“That is our commitment, to provide a secure environment and they can carry out their activities for the people of Afghanistan. We assure the people in Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe,” Suhail Shaheen said Sunday night. “There will be no revenge on anyone.”