As American troops rush to complete their withdrawal by President Biden’s Tuesday deadline, many Afghans are afraid that reprisals from the country’s new rulers will soon follow.
When Taliban fighters seized control of Kabul two weeks ago, the invading units made a beeline for two critical targets: the headquarters of the National Security Directorate and the Ministry of Communications.
Their aim — recounted by two Afghan officials who had been briefed separately on the raid — was to secure the files of intelligence officers and their informers, and to obtain the means of tracking the telephone numbers of Afghan citizens. That could be disastrous for hundreds of thousands of people who had been working to counter the Taliban threat.
So far, the Taliban’s political leadership has presented a moderate face, promising amnesty to government security forces who lay down their arms. They have even written letters of guarantee that they will not be pursued, although reserving the right to prosecute serious crimes. Spokesmen for the Taliban have also talked of forming an inclusive government.
A Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said in a Twitter post in English that there was no settling of scores. Nor, he said, was there a hit list with which the Taliban were conducting door-to-door searches, as has been rumored.
“General amnesty has been granted,” he wrote, adding that “we are focusing on future.”
Yet there are growing reports of detentions, disappearances and even executions at the hands of the Taliban, in what some current and former government officials describe as a covert pursuit of the militants’ enemies. The scale of the campaign is uncertain because it is being conducted covertly. And it is unclear what level of the Taliban leadership authorized detentions or executions.
“It’s very much underground,” said one former legislator, who was in hiding elsewhere when the Taliban visited his home in the middle of the night.