After the swift takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban amid a US and NATO troop withdrawal, the government in Kabul collapsed, with president Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country. Western countries have rushed to evacuate citizens and diplomatic staff, with questions lingering over the fate of Afghans who aided foreign forces over the last two decades.
There are growing accounts of the Taliban* searching for people they believe worked or fought alongside US and NATO forces, which are currently wrapping up their withdrawal from Afghanistan, reports The New York Times.
Thousands of members of the Afghan security force that the United States and its allies spent billions of dollars to arm and train to withstand a Taliban onslaught for two decades have rushed to other countries, such as Iran or Uzbekistan, over the past few weeks as the Taliban rapidly swept across the country. While some Afghan forces surrendered, those who opted to put up a resistance are now hunted by the Islamist group, which has taken control of the country.
The militants are reportedly going from door to door, threatening family members with arrest if they cannot find the people they seek, according to former Afghan officials cited in a confidential report prepared for the United Nations. The document was provided by the Norwegian Centre for Global Analyses, shared internally at the UN and seen by The New York Times.
Reports of Taliban ‘Hit List’
Taliban militants have purportedly drawn up lists of individuals after studying records at the ministry of defence and interior and the headquarters of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security. The Taliban are also said to be resorting to a network of informers to help them track down individuals, according to the report and witness accounts.
Once they took control of Kabul, the Taliban visited the houses of senior intelligence officials, says the report.
Taliban had ostensibly been going door to door and “arresting and/or threatening to kill or arrest family members of target individuals unless they surrender themselves to the Taliban.”
At the home of one such official they are said to have left a letter, dated August 16, instructing the man to report to the militants’ Military and Intelligence Commission in Kabul. The letter warned that unless the individual cooperated with them, his family would be detained and punished. A former interpreter for US troops is cited as having witnessed a man suspected of having worked for foreign forces being shot dead.
Ryan Rogers, a retired Marine sergeant, was cited by Fox News on Thursday as saying the interpreter he worked with in 2010 battle in Helmand province is currently trapped in Kabul, unable to reach the airport as Taliban fighters seek out former Afghan commandos and interpreters.
“He told me yesterday they hung three [Afghan National Army] commanders that they had found. And that close to the place that he’s hiding, they’re going house-to-house and that they sent a transmission out saying they had plans for the people that operated with America,” he was cited as saying.
Footage from Kandahar posted by RTA, Afghanistan’s public broadcaster, showed bodies strewn along the roadside, many reportedly Afghan soldiers and officials killed by the Taliban.
As the Taliban’s main targets are believed to be members of the Afghan military and the police, according to the report, Pentagon officials were cited as saying they would be evacuated if they were able to reach the airport. Unlike former Afghan interpreters, members of the Afghan security forces are not included in special visa programs established by the US government.
The confidential report prepared for the United Nations seems to contradict the Taliban’s public assurances that the group would not seek revenge on those who supported the collapsed government and foreign forces.
In a televised press conference on Tuesday, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid promised the insurgents would secure Afghanistan, but seek no revenge against those who worked with the former government or with foreign governments or forces.
“We assure you that nobody will go to their doors to ask why they helped,” he said.
Frantic Evacuation Effort
As the US forces rush to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from Kabul’s airport, Taliban checkpoints are said to be preventing many people from reaching the airport.
Several hundred troops from the National Directorate of Security are reportedly at Kabul airport, aiding the US evacuation effort of foreigners and Afghans, according to the outlet. It is believed there is an agreement with the American side that once the airlifting is complete, the Afghans will be among the last to leave.
The Pentagon sent thousands of additional troops to the airport to help with the evacuations. However, it was not clarified if US forces would leave the base to rescue Americans or Afghan allies, reported Fox News.
Fox News cited sources as saying the State Department was looking into non-military ways to move Americans and others in Kabul as an alternative to sending troops into the city after the Biden administration finally acknowledged reports that evacuees were having trouble reaching the international airport due to Taliban checkpoints.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said during a Thursday news briefing that the government had received a “small handful of reports” of American citizens unable to reach the airport. He also weighed in on reports that interpreters and former Afghan military officers were being hunted and killed by the Taliban, saying he could not confirm their veracity.
In an interview with ABC News, President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that the United States was committed to evacuating every American out of Afghanistan, even if that may mean extending the military mission beyond his 31 August deadline for a total withdrawal.