As uncertainty clouds the future of Afghanistan after the Taliban entered the country's capital, Canberra-based academic Professor Amin Saikal fears that verifiable, independent information about conditions within the country will dry up as the new rulers exert their control.
The Taliban have taken over the presidential palace in Kabul after the president, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country. All commercial flights in and out of the capital have been suspended.
An author of a book detailing Afghanistan's centuries-long struggles, now an adjunct professor of social sciences at the University of Western Australia, Professor Saikal said he was trying to keep a detached perspective on what he could see occurring in his homeland - but what he was witnessing was filling him with sadness.
"I do my best to detach my personal feelings from my academic position on these issues," he said.
"But I feel enormously sad for the people of Afghanistan and the uncertain future that they are really facing."
He believes the imposition of strict Sharia law within the capital is imminent, and this would have significant knock-on effects for the 4.4 million residents.
Professor Saikal described feeling helpless as countries around the world, including Australia, rapidly withdrew their diplomatic staff under military protection and the United Arab Emirates was used as the gateway for evacuation of diplomatic missions from France, the UK, the EU, the United States and Germany.
He said freedom of expression within the country, which had been empowered by an independent media, was now certain to be significantly curtailed.
"A lot of young people, especially women, who were educated, emancipated, and had aspirations to participate in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, will now be very concerned about the future," he said.
Key infrastructure which had been rebuilt during the period of US financial and military support is now being progressively destroyed by the Taliban.
"In regional areas already the Taliban have destroyed a number of roads, buildings, schools and so on; whether they will continue do the same in Kabul remains to be seen," he said.
"The Taliban are very much guided and patronised by the Pakistan military intelligence over the years to present a more moderate and reformed face, but in reality, their ideology has not changed at all.
"From what they have done in the past three weeks in the areas under their control, it is very evident that their hard ideological position has not really changed."
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