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Watchdog Says Over 100 Afghan Former Security Force Members Killed Or Disappeared

Members of the Afghan security forces on a foot patrol in Nangarhar Province before the Taliban takeover. (file photo)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the Taliban has “summarily executed or forcibly disappeared” more than 100 former security force members in just four of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces since taking over the war-torn country in mid-August.

In a report released on November 30, the New York-based human rights watchdog documents the killing or disappearance of 47 former members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) who had surrendered to or were apprehended by Taliban militants between August 15 and October 31.

The group said it had gathered credible information on the killing of more than 100 military personnel, police, intelligence service members, and militia from Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, and Kunduz provinces alone.

The Taliban leadership’s promise of an "amnesty" for anyone affiliated with the toppled internationally backed government in Kabul and former security forces “has not stopped local commanders from summarily executing or disappearing former Afghan security force members,” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW, said in a statement.

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

In a response to the report’s findings, the Taliban said it had dismissed those responsible for abuses but provided no information to corroborate their claim, HRW said.

For its report, titled ‘No Forgiveness for People Like You,’ Executions and Enforced Disappearances in Afghanistan under the Taliban, HRW said it interviewed 40 people in person in the four provinces and another 27 by telephone, including witnesses, relatives, and friends of victims, former government officials, journalists, and health-care workers, as well as Taliban members.

The group said Taliban leaders have directed members of surrendering security force units to register to receive a letter guaranteeing their safety.

However, Taliban militants have used these screenings to “detain and summarily execute or forcibly disappear people within days after they register, leaving their bodies for their relatives or communities to find,” it said.

According to HRW, the Taliban has also used employment records that the former government left behind to “identify people for arrest and execution,” and carried out search operations to “apprehend and, at times, forcibly disappear suspected former officials.”

Such executions and disappearances “have generated fear among former government officials and others who might have believed that the Taliban takeover would bring an end to the revenge attacks that had been characteristic of Afghanistan’s long armed conflict,” the watchdog said.

Particularly in Nangarhar Province, the Taliban has also targeted people it accused of supporting an affiliate of the Islamic State extremist group -- the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), according to HRW, which said many of those killed have been targeted “because of their Salafist views, or their particular tribal affiliations.”

The Taliban announced in September the establishment of a commission to investigate reports of human rights abuses, corruption, theft, and other crimes.

The commission has reported on the arrest of several Taliban members for stealing and the dismissal of others for corruption, but has not announced any investigations into any reported killings, HRW said.

“The lack of accountability makes clear the need for continued UN scrutiny of Afghanistan’s human rights situation, including robust monitoring, investigations, and public reporting,” Gossman said.

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