Kabul, Aug 12 The death in Kabul of the leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, suddenly demolished the image of change that the Taliban wanted to convey since their return to power, now a year old, with the uncertainty of whether Afghanistan will once again be a refuge for terrorists while the threat of the Islamic State (IS) persists.
When on the morning of July 31, the leader of Al Qaeda appeared on his balcony in a central residence in Kabul, a missile launched by an American drone killed him, as announced the next day by the president of the United States, Joe Biden.
The Taliban first condemned the US attack on Afghan territory and then limited themselves to saying that they were unaware of Al Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul, without ever confirming the death of the jihadist leader.
Ignorance before acknowledging complicity was also the argument used in May 2011 by the Pakistani authorities when Washington announced that it had killed in a special operation, in a residence near the main military academy of Pakistan, the most wanted terrorist in the world, Osama bin Laden.
After the death of Al Zawahiri, the Islamists and Washington also accused each other of having violated the Doha agreement of February 2020, in which the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after two decades of conflict was agreed in exchange for the promise Taliban, among other points, not to allow the Asian country to become a refuge for terrorists again.
But for the Taliban it seems that the term “terrorist” does not refer to groups like Al Qaeda, allies of the insurgents during the two decades of war against the US occupation with financial support and training, but to IS, which has become the last year in the main security threat in Afghanistan.
Faced with this challenge, the Islamist government insists on giving an image of strength, assuring that the presence of the Islamic State in Afghan territory has been considerably reduced and its capacity for action is severely limited by successive Taliban operations.
The number of IS fighters in Afghanistan “is close to zero” and “they will be defeated in the future. The recent attacks against innocent civilians show that they are being defeated,” Taliban government deputy spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told Efe.
From the Ministry of Defense they also highlight their “achievements”, by strengthening the Afghan security forces with the enlistment of 100,000 soldiers and 180,000 policemen, in addition to recovering 60 aircraft for the Army and intensifying “security throughout the country and in the border,” spokesman Khurazem Shah explained to Efe.
And it is that with the fall of the Government in Kabul, supported by the international community, the security forces were also dismantled, despite the fact that the Taliban promised an amnesty among the troops, something that very few believed and that was later confirmed by the reports of extrajudicial executions.
A former member of the Afghan special forces who identifies himself only by his name, Mohamed, explains to Efe that he remains hidden in one of the Kabul neighborhoods least frequented by the Taliban, waiting for an opportunity to leave the country, unable to obtain a passport by having your data registered.
Mohamed has his body covered in scars. During the Islamists’ final offensive, this special forces member last fought insurgents in northern Afghanistan, where he was seriously wounded and, unconscious, left for dead by insurgents on the battlefield.
The soldier woke up in a hospital, to which he had been taken by some villagers, and on August 22, in Afghanistan already controlled by the Taliban, he was discharged. He says that if the Islamists identify him, they will kill him.
“Only in the province of Baghlan I know of 13-14 people (former members of the Army) who were captured by the Taliban. They were captured around 1 in the morning in their homes. Their brothers, sisters, parents told me,” he says. .
And it is that many denounce that the Taliban discourse is full of half-truths, with an amnesty that is not such or trying to reduce the threat of IS or the magnitude of its attacks, while victims of jihadists such as the Shiite Hazara minority raise their voices of alarm.
“The only thing we could hope for from the Taliban after taking over the country was security, but they have also failed greatly in that regard,” Hazara Khalil Kazimi, who has seen his community been the victim of continuous attacks, told Efe.
Last October, for two consecutive Fridays, the Shiite minority suffered two suicide attacks on mosques in the northern province of Kunduz and in the southern Kandahar, which caused at least 80 and 60 deaths, respectively, and more than a hundred wounded.
These attacks were some of the most notable against this minority during the last year, which suffered successive attacks on mosques and educational centers, in which several activists have frequently suggested that the number of victims was greater than the official number given by the Taliban, in his attempt to downgrade the threat.
Only in recent weeks has the UN, which tends to be very conservative when it comes to providing figures for victims of attacks, considerably raised the official version of the Taliban, giving, for example, 19 deaths in an attack on a cricket stadium in Kabul, when the Islamists gave hours later only two dead.
The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) announced in a report in July that since the Taliban came to power they had recorded 700 deaths and 1,406 injuries in attacks against ethnic and religious minorities committed mostly by the Islamic State.
But minorities are not the only victims of IS, which yesterday claimed responsibility for the assassination in a suicide attack in Kabul of the well-known Taliban religious Rahimullah Haqqani, who had publicly defended women’s right to education or work, and was a fervent opponent of the jihadist group. EFE