The latest incarnation of the Taliban may be even more brutal and unscrupulous

As bad as the situation in Afghanistan has been with an American presence, it could get far worse without it, writes Borzou Daragahi

Sunday 15 August 2021 13:18
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<p>Taliban fighters sit on a vehicle on the street in Jalalabad province on 15 August</p>

Taliban fighters sit on a vehicle on the street in Jalalabad province on 15 August

It had been a fierce two-hour firefight but Afghan government forces in the northern province of Faryab ultimately heeded the Taliban’s calls to surrender, emerging with their hands in the air. The Taliban fighters who captured them were in no mood for mercy, though. They promptly opened fire, slaughtering two dozen people in a June incident that was captured on video and described by an Amnesty International researcher as the “cold-blooded murder” of unarmed combatants.

Taliban apologists, interlocutors and even their own representatives have for years argued that a new and improved version of the network of groups is unlike its violent predecessors who terrorised the nation, massacred religious minorities, turned women into little more than slaves, destroyed ancient monuments and harboured al-Qaeda during their 1996 to 2001 rule. This version was ready to share power with other Afghan political forces, name members of the country’s Shia minority as commanders and abide by international norms.

But that appears to have been extremely wishful thinking. An ugly vision of Afghanistan’s future under the Taliban is already emerging. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that desperate Afghans are pouring into Kabul from areas newly invaded by the Taliban and describing massacres of civilians, summary executions of captured soldiers, and demands that unmarried women be handed over to their fighters as spoils of war.

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