The Taliban took a new step in their public relations campaign to gain acceptance from the global community Tuesday. They held a news conference and promised a general amnesty for all combatants, especially those that helped the US and its allies in the 20-year war.
There were bold words from Afghanistan's new rulers, who shuttered women from civil life and prevented the education of young girls 20 years ago. Downstate in Peoria, Illinois' senior elected Democratic leaders expressed skepticism at promises of amnesty.
"I don't trust the Taliban," said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois). "So they can offer all they want. I suspect - this is my personal opinion - I suspect that promises they make will certainly change once all US forces have left Afghanistan, and so, they are not exactly known for keeping their word."
In the chaos that is Kabul right now, Afghanistan's new leaders say women will be allowed to continue to work and study, hard-won freedoms that were denied them when the Taliban were last in charge 20 years ago. But the new rulers said they would be protected within the confines of Sharia Law. They didn't elaborate.
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"We know our highest priority - and it has been stated by Senator Duckworth and I agree completely - the future of Afghanistan belongs to the people of Afghanistan and we've learned valuable lessons," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).
In Washington, a bipartisan group of 44 senators asked the Biden Administration to create another special class of visas for women seeking to quickly leave - women who may have helped allied forces in the war.
"About half of the world's refugees are women and girls and they are particularly vulnerable because in times of conflict of conflict, women are often victims. And because of that, I think that's a really important effort to try to protect women in Afghanistan because of the history of the Taliban," said Jims Porter, with Refugee One.
Refugee One has settled some 500 Afghanis in Chicago under special immigrant visas since 2014. Their sources expect more families soon as the U.S. tries to accelerate their exit from the chaos.
"When it comes to Afghans here in Chicago and what they are really feeling and experiencing, most of the folks we have been in touch with are kind of in a moment of crisis," Porter said. "You can imagine a lot of them still have family there and some of them have family who are U.S. citizens who are there visiting this past week and are now stuck inside the country. So from all of these individuals, I think more so then what they are thinking what's going to happen with the new government, the new regime, I think they are wondering how they can get their families to safety."
"I was just reading a report that they went and already started knocking on the doors of female journalists and other women that have been working on behalf of the role of women and girls in Afghanistan in particular," Duckworth added.
Whether the Taliban's promises are real or just public relations remain to be seen. But sources at various refugee resettlement agencies expect Chicago to be key repatriation site for the people fleeing them as Afghanistan faces its future.