Image via YouTube.
The Taliban is skating through the streets of Kabul on rollerblades. Footage surfaced online this week of Taliban security forces on patrol in Afghanistan’s largest city, and quickly went viral. Taliban flags hung from the shoulders of some of the forces and fluttered in the breeze as the soldiers rollerbladed while holding onto a military vehicle and carrying AK-style rifles. Two years after U.S. withdrawal, the video is a striking reminder of the Taliban’s victory and America’s failure.
The two-minute long viral video on Twitter appears to be a cutdown of a 22-minute long video uploaded to YouTube on November 11. “The first part of the military performance of figure skating in the streets of Kabul,” uploader Yadullah Marvi said in the video’s description. “In this video, the movements of our figure skaters were filmed, and people's reactions were also filmed, and this is the first part of the video. Wait for the next parts!” According to his YouTube page, Marvi is a “parkour athlete” in Afghanistan.Marvi’s other videos show off groups of young men parkouring around locations in Afghanistan. According to the page’s description, the channel was created in July, 2023. The first video was posted three months ago and Motherboard found a TikTok channel, Facebook page, and Instagram page with similar content.The rollerblading video is unique on the YouTube page, however. At 91,000 views, it’s the most popular thing Marvi’s done. It’s also the only video to feature overt military imagery. In the other videos, Marvi and others are dressed in T-shirts and shorts as they flip around and do parkour tricks. It’s also the only video with an English description, meaning it was probably meant to be viewed by Western audiences. Every other video’s description is written in Persian. It’s also the longest video on the channel.Soldiers sporting AK-style rifles and zooming around on rollerblades in city streets, admittedly, looks cool as hell. The full 22-minute video features shots of multiple hands appearing from the windows of the patrol cars holding phones and filming the roller skaters. There’s music, but a siren can be heard blaring as the soldiers move through the city, meaning the convoy was announcing itself as it patrolled the streets. Most likely, this was meant to be filmed.The rollerbladers is the latest in a long line of recent propaganda coups for the Taliban. The Taliban that took control of Afghanistan as America withdrew from the region is not the same as the one that ruled the country in 2021. It’s more tech savvy and very image conscious as it transitions into a governing role. It uses social media and the internet to craft a careful image of itself. Photos of Taliban fighters enjoying amusement parks and swinging on swing sets routinely go viral online now. White Servis Cheetah High Tops, a sneaker associated with the Taliban, are for sale all over the internet. Some Talib bureaucrats complain of missing the days of Jihad, even as some of more youthful members go viral when they rollerblade down the streets of Kabul. The image the Taliban wants to project is that things are going great. Provided, of course, you’re not a woman.