The Associated Press, citing a U.N. report it claims to have obtained, said on Monday that the international agency has evidence documenting the deaths of over 100 former Afghan officials or members of the defunct Afghan military since the Taliban jihadist group took over the country.
The AP report aligns with a briefing offered by U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif in December that revealed the verification of “more than 100 killings of former Afghan national security forces and others associated with the former Government, with at least 72 of these killings attributed to the Taliban.” The dozens of deaths at the hands of Taliban terrorists followed a promise by a spokesman for the terrorist group in August that no individual who either served in the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) or the Afghan government, or who collaborated with the United States during its 20-year presence in the country, would face “revenge” from the jihadists.
The Taliban has enthusiastically urged such people to stay within the country and invest in its economy, to enrich the Taliban and Afghanistan by proxy. The U.N. has encouraged the world to invest in the Taliban, arguing that the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is currently so dire that the alternative would be condemning thousands to extreme poverty and death.
The Taliban has been running Afghanistan since August 15, when former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country by helicopter and surrendered Kabul to the jihadist group. The Taliban launched a national effort to return to power after President Joe Biden announced he would extend the Afghan War from the agreed-upon end date of May 1 through September, breaking a deal the White House had brokered with the Taliban. The ANDSF ceased to exist during that campaign as soldiers either surrendered or fled en masse to neighboring Tajikistan.
The news service reported on Monday that the report it obtained was signed by the head of the U.N., Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who attributed “more than two-thirds” of the documented killings since the return of the Taliban to power to “extrajudicial killings by the Taliban.” Guterres also noted that the Taliban has also engaged in another 50 documented executions of people “suspected of affiliation with” the Islamic State.
The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the Afghan branch of the gruesome terrorist organization, has waged war against the Taliban – despite their shared Sunni Islamic ideology – for years, particularly over control of opium-cultivating territory. In August, the Taliban blamed ISIS-K for a bombing at Kabul’s international airport that claimed 200 lives, including those of 13 U.S. service members, as desperate Afghans tried to get on planes to flee Taliban rule.
The Guterres report obtained by the AP also allegedly documented numerous “enforced disappearances and other violations impacting the right to life and physical integrity.” Among the targeted victims of Taliban attacks were journalists and public figures in particular, and women and girls more generally.
The figure the AP reported of killings since August does not appear to differ significantly from public figures revealed by the U.N. in December.
“Between August and November, we received credible allegations of more than 100 killings of former Afghan national security forces and others associated with the former Government, with at least 72 of these killings attributed to the Taliban,” Al-Nashif said at the time. “In several cases, the bodies were publicly displayed. This has exacerbated fear among this sizeable [sic] category of the population.”
Similarly, last week, Guterres’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons told a U.N. briefing that she had reviewed “compelling evidence of an emerging environment of intimidation and a deterioration in respect for human rights.”
“Despite announcements of general amnesties for those who worked for or defended the former Government, we continue to receive credible allegations of killings, enforced disappearances, and other violations that are not being addressed by the judiciary,” Lyons said. “In addition, we are seeing a growing number of detentions of political opponents, civil society representatives, and those who voice dissent.”
Lyons called the general situation in Afghanistan “quite simply unsustainable over the long term.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid explicitly stated during his first press conference after the Taliban seizure of Kabul that his group would not engage in revenge killings of individuals associated with the defeated government.
“I would like to assure all the compatriots, whether they were translators, whether they were with military activities or whether they were civilians, all of them have been important,” Mujahid said. “Nobody is going to be treated with revenge. Both youth who have talents, who have grown up here, who are from this country, we don’t want them to leave. These are our assets, we would like them to stay here, to serve.”
Mujahid further explicitly stated that a situation now regularly documented by agencies like the U.N. would not occur: “We would like to assure you that nobody is going to knock on their door to inspect them, to ask them or to interrogate them as to who they have been working for or interpreting for.”
Instead of revenge, Taliban leaders said they would build an “inclusive” government representing the diversity of Afghanistan’s population. That government has yet to materialize, as Taliban leaders have taken all senior positions for themselves or for their allies in the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network.