Dozens of former Afghan security forces dead or missing under Taliban, says report

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More than 100 former members of the Afghan security forces in four provinces have been killed or disappeared by the Taliban in the first two and a half months of the militants’ rule, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The deaths are part of a string of assassinations and summary executions, largely considered revenge killings, that have been happening across Afghanistan since the fall of Ashraf Ghani’s government in August.

The attacks underscore the dangers that Taliban critics, activists and members of the former government’s security forces face despite the Taliban announcement when they seized power of a general amnesty for former government workers and military officials.

In a report released on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch detailed the killing and forced disappearance of 47 members of the former government’s security forces who had either surrendered to the Taliban or were detained by them between Aug. 15 and Oct. 31 in four of the countries 34 provinces: Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar and Kunduz.

The group’s research indicates that the Taliban are responsible for the deaths or disappearances of at least another 53 former security force members in the same provinces.

“The Taliban leadership’s promised amnesty has not stopped local commanders from summarily executing or disappearing former Afghan security force members,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director of the Human Rights Watch.

“The burden is on the Taliban to prevent further killings, hold those responsible to account and compensate the victims’ families.”

Ms. Gossman said that the killings had evolved into a more “deliberate” effort to crush dissidents and those who may pose a threat to the new government and that the Taliban leaders were “condoning” the atrocities.

The Taliban have a long history of targeting security forces and officials of the former government, as well as activists, journalists and elders.

Particularly in the 18 months leading up to the takeover, the Taliban carried out an assassination campaign against journalists, government and military workers and civil society leaders, though they rarely took responsibility for the deaths.

Ghazni was among four Afghan provinces where Human Rights Watch found evidence of retaliatory killings.

Ghazni was among four Afghan provinces where Human Rights Watch found evidence of retaliatory killings. Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
But the recent summary executions and assassinations have raised new fears because they occurred even in the face of reassurances from senior Taliban leaders that the new government would not seek retribution against members of the former government and military.

Score settling and blood feuds have marked Afghanistan’s last four decades of conflict, often playing out at the local and familial level.

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