As Taliban tighten grip, fears of retaliation grow

ISTANBUL – When Taliban troops took control of the Afghan capital two weeks ago, invading units moved towards two critical targets: the ...


ISTANBUL – When Taliban troops took control of the Afghan capital two weeks ago, invading units moved towards two critical targets: the headquarters of the Directorate of National Security and the Ministry of Communications.

Their goal – recounted by two Afghan officials who had been separately briefed on the raid – was to secure the files of Afghan intelligence operatives and their informants, and to obtain the means to track the phone numbers of Afghan citizens.

The speed to which Kabul fell on August 15, when President Ashraf Ghani fled, was potentially disastrous for hundreds of thousands of Afghans working to counter the Taliban threat, from senior officials to government officials. intermediate level, which have since been forced to cache.

Few officials have found the time to shred documents, and thousands of top secret files and payrolls have fallen into enemy hands, the two officials said.

As US troops complete their withdrawal before Tuesday’s deadline, much of the nation cracks in fear in anticipation of retaliation to come.

So far, the Taliban’s political leadership has presented a moderate face, promising amnesty to government security forces who lay down their arms, even writing letters of guarantee that they will not be prosecuted, while reserving the right to prosecute serious crimes. Taliban spokespersons have also spoken of the formation of an inclusive government.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a Twitter message in English that there had been no settling of scores, nor a list of results with which the Taliban carried out door-to-door searches, as has been said.

“The general amnesty has been granted,” he wrote, adding that “we are focused on the future”.

Yet there are growing reports of detentions, disappearances and even executions of officials at the hands of the Taliban, in what some current and former government officials describe as a covert and sometimes deadly pursuit of the enemies of the Taliban. .

“It’s very clandestine,” said a former lawmaker, who was in hiding elsewhere when the Taliban visited his home in the middle of the night.

“It’s intimidation,” he said. “I feel threatened and my family is in shock.

The Taliban have invaded towns and neighborhoods, often without gunfire, giving diplomatic assurances to their opponents and the public. But the original commanders have often been replaced by more authoritarian operatives who carry out raids and kidnappings, former government officials said.

The scale of the campaign is unclear as it is being carried out in secret. It is also unclear at what level the Taliban leadership authorized detentions or executions.

The people who seized the files at the National Security Directorate and the Ministry of Communications may not even have been Taliban: the men did not speak Afghan languages, officials said, and could be agents of the Taliban. the Pakistani military intelligence agency working in tandem with the Taliban. forces. Pakistani agency Inter-Services Intelligence has long supported the Taliban in their violent opposition to the government in Kabul.

The fear among Afghans is palpable. All but the youngest remember the authoritarian Taliban regime of the 1990s, with its draconian punishments, hangings and public executions.

Many people went into hiding, changed their location and phone number, and cut off communications with their friends and colleagues.

“People don’t trust the Taliban because of what they have done before,” said an Afghan who worked as a translator for the NATO mission and was among the evacuees.

Human rights organizations, activists and former government officials have also struggled to understand exactly what is going on in Afghanistan’s vast mountainous terrain, but several government officials who remain in their posts have said that they received increasingly frantic calls from relatives and acquaintances.

“They seem to be doing very threatening research,” said Patricia Gossman, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch. “It really is police state behavior. The message is very clear. “

Residents of northern Badakhshan province have been taken from their homes in recent days and have not been seen since, one of the government officials said. There has been a pattern of pursuit of Afghan special operations forces personnel and intelligence commandos, known as 00 units, as well as police and security chiefs across the country, a- he added.

When asked if these actions and reports of killings indicated Taliban policy or were one-off revenge on the part of individuals, he replied, “It is early to judge.

But the official said he had received information about an internal meeting of the Taliban at their headquarters in Quetta, Pakistan, where leaders discussed whether to grant amnesty to some highly trained Afghan agents. The Taliban members had decided not to let them go because they could cause trouble for the Taliban in the future.

“It worries me if this becomes a policy,” he said.

This official, like all those questioned on the subject, asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals by the Taliban against his relatives who remained in Afghanistan.

The former security police chief of southwestern Farah province, Ghulam Sakhi Akbari, was gunned down on Friday on the main Kabul-Kandahar highway, activists posted on Facebook. “Some activists blamed the Taliban”, we wrote. “The Taliban haven’t said anything so far.”

At least a dozen former provincial officials in Ghani’s government have been detained by the Taliban across the country, former government officials said. They appointed three district police chiefs and three security officials in the southern province of Kandahar, two provincial police chiefs, one provincial governor and two provincial intelligence department heads, who are known to have been detained.

It is not clear where the officials are being held or whether legal proceedings have been taken against them. In some cases, they have been reported missing by family members. In the case of the three district police chiefs in Kandahar, members of the public demanded that the Taliban arrest the men, who have long been accused of human rights abuses, one resident said.

A group of political activists have expressed concerns that some of their supporters are missing and fear they will be kidnapped.

An activist, Majeed Karar, well known for his opposition to the Taliban, posted photographs of a district governor and a young Afghan poet who he said have been kidnapped and killed in recent days. He said in a post on Twitter that he was receiving messages from friends about other murders.

The Taliban have not confirmed the detentions and, apparently determined to avoid international censorship, blamed some of the violence on others claiming to be Taliban.

The day the Taliban captured three high-level commanders after a final pitched battle at Kandahar Airport, residents began frantically gathering at the city’s stadium, in anticipation of a public execution.

The spectacle, characteristic of the Taliban regime in the 1990s, did not take place.

So far, there has been no massive retaliation across the country, and the killings could turn out to be cases of individual revenge, Ms Gossman said.

Human Rights Watch found that 44 people were taken from their homes and executed in July in the town of Spin Boldak, the main border post between Pakistan and southern Afghanistan. Those killed were members of the forces led by Abdul Raziq Achakzai, a CIA-trained agent opposed to the Taliban and widely accused of human rights violations.

All 44 had received letters of amnesty from the Taliban, Ms Gossman said.

Amnesty International reported that nine men, mostly local police, were massacred by members of the Taliban in July in central Ghazni province. Six were shot and three were tortured before being killed, the rights association said.

A number of former government officials have complained that even after cooperating with the Taliban to hand over their weapons and vehicles, the Taliban continued to harass them.

Bismillah Taban, head of the Interior Ministry’s police criminal investigation unit under Mr. Ghani, said his assistant turned over all equipment and weapons in his possession to the Taliban the day after they entered in Kabul.

But he said the Taliban were still looking for him.

“The Taliban detained my former collaborator in Kabul, detained him for five hours, tortured him to force him to reveal my hiding place,” he said from an undisclosed location. “I don’t believe their promise of general amnesty. They killed one of my colleagues after taking power. They will kill me too if they find me.



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Newsrust - US Top News: As Taliban tighten grip, fears of retaliation grow
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