Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Taliban militants held a “massive” parade and show of force on Saturday in Kabul, Afghanistan, despite being weakened by US drone strikes and the killing of its former leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour.
The ceremony, which marked the 18th anniversary of the group’s emergence, involved a parade of US-made weapons and more than 2,000 Taliban fighters, with Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani as the guest of honor.
“The main message of the parade was that the Afghan people and security forces who fought against this enemy are now the masters,” Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s presidential council, told reporters.
More than 10,000 casualties
It was the first time the Taliban publicly commemorated the death of Mullah Omar, their former leader and the only man to briefly lead the group who died in 2013.
Like many more of their previous ceremonies, the celebration was part of a ploy to appear united and cohesive, with young fighters on motorcycles, other smaller groups forming bands and dozens of military trucks leading the parade route along one of Kabul’s main avenues.
The parade included a fighter jet, large armored vehicles and dozens of foreign-made weapons, including M16 and M240 machine guns from the US, plus the K2 armored personnel carrier, an armored truck, three Katyusha Katyusha rockets, Zardozi rockets, an armored truck carrying rocket launchers, and several truck bombs.
Doubts over security
Karim Stanekzai, chief of staff for President Ashraf Ghani, told CNN that he doubted the security arrangements were serious and called on the government to show more transparency and coordination in future public events.
“Obviously, I’m very skeptical that there will be the security situation in terms of holding a ceremony like this one in such a broad and open way,” he said.
“They’ve said that by 2015, in coordination with NATO, they will put on a major military parade in the North of Afghanistan.
“I still think that there is a long way to go. A lot of work has to be done if they are going to step up to the plate and begin to work with international forces to make sure that (they) can conduct major military operations.
“Until they do that, I think we need to remain skeptical.”
A brief pause
On the outskirts of Kabul, much of the city was again under curfew.
Strikes by US drone and manned aircraft targeted Taliban militants and Islamic State supporters in Pakistan, in recent days. A drone strike on a convoy in Zabul province killed at least 18 people on Thursday, according to officials.
It was believed to be the biggest reported US strike yet on the Afghan Taliban, although some reports put the number of deaths much higher.
The Taliban has also recently launched an attack on foreign diplomats in Kabul and pledged to avenge the killing of Mansour, whose funeral was held in Pakistan last week.