On December 5, Abdul Qahar Balki, spokesperson for the Afghan Taliban’s foreign affairs office, denied accusations that the Taliban government has carried out summary killings and forced disappearances against former Afghan government security officials.
Balki’s comments came after reports by human rights groups that the Taliban, who ousted the former government and took power in August, have not kept an amnesty pledge. He vowed to hold anyone violating the pledge accountable, adding that “proof” of violations is required.
“The Mojahedin are fully committed to enforcing the amnesty decree, and the staff of the former administration will not be harassed because of their previous opposition,” he said.
But reports by human rights watchdogs suggest his statement is misleading.
Indeed, Taliban officials repeated several times that an amnesty is granted to former security personnel. On August 17, during their first news conference after taking power, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid declared that “the Islamic Emirate issued an amnesty for all governmental and nongovernment employees.”
“We don’t hold grudges against anyone,” he said.
Mujahid, however, later told London’s pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat: “[T]he amnesty is not ‘general.’ It doesn’t include organized underground networks that store explosives and weapons, especially if they come from a military or intelligence background.”
In a November 30 report, “No Forgiveness for People Like You,” Human Rights Watch reported the accounts of 67 former members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), including military, police and intelligence. Forty interviews were conducted in person in various provinces. HRW said it found credible information that more than 100 former officers were killed.
According to HRW, the Taliban directed ANSF members to register and receive a letter of amnesty, but the Taliban scanned the lists of those registered for former officers.
“The Taliban have used these screenings to detain and summarily execute or forcibly disappear individuals within days of their registration, leaving their bodies for their relatives or communities to find,” HRW reported.
On September 13, Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said what was happening on the ground contradicted the Taliban’s amnesty promises.
“My office has received credible allegations of reprisal killings of a number of former ANSF personnel, and reports of civilians who worked for previous administrations and their family members being arbitrarily detained. In some cases, the officials were released, and in others, they were found dead,” Bachelet said in a statement.
On August 20, ABC News said an intelligence report was shared among U.N. member states, including the United States, citing “door-to-door” searches based on blacklists.
The report, which was put together by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, a private intelligence group, said the targets were mainly former Afghan government officials and people who worked with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.
Reports of the Taliban assassinating Afghan government officials and soldiers go back earlier, prior to the fall of Kabul and the country in mid-August.
In July, CNN reported it had obtained and verified videos showing the Taliban executing 22 special forces commandos after they surrendered in northern Afghanistan’s Faryab province. Taliban official negotiator and spokesperson Suheil Shaheen claimed that the video was fake.
As Taliban fighters moved on Kabul, they tried to assassinate former acting defense minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who survived a bombing and gun battle. The Taliban said the bombing was to avenge the deaths of Taliban fighters.
On December 4, the U.S. several other countries issued a joint statement of concern over reports of forced disappearances and summary killings against former Afghan security forces.
“We call on the Taliban to effectively enforce the amnesty for former members of the Afghan security forces and former Government officials to ensure that it is upheld across the country and throughout their ranks,” the statement said.
The Taliban replaced high-ranking government officials with their own, turning a deaf ear to international calls to form an inclusive government. The Taliban have also renamed and reorganized the Afghan military.