Hunted by the Taliban, US-Allied Afghan Forces Are in Hiding

Columns of Afghan troopers in armored autos and pickup vans sped by means of the desert to succeed in Iran. Army pilots flew low and quick to the security of Uzbekistan’s mountains.

Hundreds of Afghan safety pressure members managed to make it to different international locations over the previous few weeks because the Taliban quickly seized the nation. Others managed to barter surrenders and went again to their properties — and a few saved their weapons and joined the profitable aspect.

They had been all a part of the sudden atomization of the nationwide safety forces that america and its allies spent tens of billions of {dollars} to arm, prepare and stand in opposition to the Taliban, a two-decade effort at institution-building that vanished in just some days.

However tens of hundreds of different Afghan grunts, commandos and spies who fought to the tip, regardless of the speak in Washington that the Afghan forces merely gave up, have been left behind. They’re now on the run, hiding and hunted by the Taliban.

“There’s no means out,” mentioned Farid, an Afghan commando, in a textual content message to an American soldier who fought with him. Farid, who agreed to be recognized by his first identify solely, mentioned he was hiding within the mountains of japanese Afghanistan, trapped after the common military items surrendered round him. “I’m praying to be saved.”

Accounts of the Taliban looking for folks they consider labored with and fought alongside U.S. and NATO forces are starting to trickle out, providing a bloody counterpoint to the kinder and gentler face the militants have been attempting to current to the world.

The militants are threatening to arrest or punish members of the family if they can’t discover the folks they’re looking for, in line with former Afghan officers, a confidential report ready for the United Nations, and American veterans who’ve been contacted by determined Afghans who served alongside them. Most spoke on situation of anonymity to guard mates and family members nonetheless hiding in Afghanistan.

The officers mentioned the Taliban had been combing by means of information on the ministry of protection and inside and the headquarters of Afghanistan’s spy service, drawing up lists of operatives to seek for. And there are an increasing number of stories that the militants are exacting swift and deadly revenge when they’re discovered.

One former interpreter for American Particular Forces mentioned he noticed one other man gunned down toes from him on the mere suspicion that he had labored with overseas forces.

Within the southern metropolis of Kandahar, video posted on social media final week by RTA, Afghanistan’s public broadcaster, confirmed dozens of our bodies left by the highway, lots of them reportedly Afghan troopers and officers executed by the Taliban. RTA itself is now within the palms of the Taliban.

What number of Afghan troopers and safety officers are on the run is unclear. Dozens of Afghan pilots escaped to Uzbekistan, the place 22 planes and 24 helicopters carrying almost 600 males arrived on Sunday, in line with Uzbek officers; an unknown quantity made it to Iran, former Afghan officers mentioned.

On paper, the Afghan safety forces quantity round 300,000. However due to corruption, desertion and casualties, solely a sixth of that quantity had been really within the struggle in opposition to the Taliban this yr, U.S. officers say.

Hundreds surrendered because the Taliban rolled by means of the nation, laying down their weapons after being promised they might not be harmed. The Taliban thus far seems to have caught with these offers — traditionally a standard characteristic of Afghan warfare — and the militants appeared much more centered on the 18,000 Military commandos, lots of whom didn’t give up, and officers from the nation’s spy service, the Nationwide Directorate of Safety.

A few of these males have taken refuge within the Panjshir Valley, a strategic sliver north of Kabul the place a handful of Afghan leaders are attempting to arrange a pressure to withstand the Taliban. They’re mentioned to have 2,000 to 2,500 males, however impartial affirmation isn’t accessible.

20 years in the past, the Panjshiri mujahedeen chief Ahmed Shah Massoud held the valley in opposition to the Taliban for years. The area then supplied U.S. spies and Particular Operations forces a launchpad for the invasion that drove the Taliban from energy within the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults.

However this time, the Panjshiris lack heavy weapons, a provide line by means of Afghanistan’s northern borders, important worldwide help, or a unifying chief like Massoud. Even Afghans who’re supportive of their effort give them very lengthy odds of succeeding.

At Kabul’s airport, a number of hundred commandos from the Nationwide Directorate of Safety are serving to the hundreds of American troopers and Marines who’re overseeing the evacuation of foreigners and Afghans, in line with American officers and former Afghan officers. The deal struck with the People is that the Afghans might be among the many final to go away, serving as a rear guard earlier than they’re airlifted to freedom.

“They’re performing heroically,” mentioned one U.S. official.

“That’s an understatement,” one other responded.

The N.D.S. commandos have good motive to be fearful. The items killed quite a few Taliban fighters and commanders — deaths that the militants seem desirous to avenge.

The Taliban started displaying up on the homes of senior intelligence officers quickly after transferring into Kabul on Sunday. On the dwelling of Rahmatullah Nabil, a former N.D.S. chief who left the nation in current days, the Taliban got here with digital tools to brush the home, in line with a former Afghan official.

On the house of one other counterterrorism official, the Taliban left a letter instructing the person to report back to the militants’ Army and Intelligence Fee in Kabul. The letter, dated Aug. 16, was reproduced within the confidential report for the United Nations, although the official’s identify and title had been redacted.

Counterterrorism officers had been answerable for overseeing the commandos who hunted down Taliban leaders, and the letter mentioned, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers you an necessary particular person.”

If the official didn’t report back to the Taliban as ordered, it warned, their household can be detained and punished.

The doc, dated Wednesday, was supplied to the United Nations by the Norwegian Heart for World Analyses, a gaggle that gives intelligence info to companies of the worldwide group. It was shared internally on the United Nations and seen by The New York Instances.

There have been a number of stories that the Taliban had a listing of individuals they needed to query and punish — and their places, the doc mentioned. And it added that the Taliban had been going door to door and “arresting and/or threatening to kill or arrest members of the family of goal people until they give up themselves to the Taliban.”

The Taliban are additionally aggressively increasing their community of informers and urgent mosques and Hawala sellers, the casual cash merchants who kind the spine of the Afghan monetary system, to assist them monitor down needed members of the safety forces, in line with the report and witness accounts.

The principle targets had been members of the Afghan navy and the police, in addition to individuals who labored for investigative items of the toppled authorities, the doc mentioned. That evaluation was shared by a number of troopers and former officers who had been in hiding, and had been interviewed for this text.

Pentagon officers mentioned they might be evacuated in the event that they made it to the airport, however it’s unclear the place they might find yourself. In contrast to interpreters who labored with American troopers or Afghans who labored on the American Embassy, members of the Afghan safety forces will not be included in particular visa applications arrange by the U.S. authorities.

First, although, they should get previous the Taliban fighters who’ve blocked entrances to the airport, fired rifles and overwhelmed folks to manage the crowds of hundreds who’re attempting to flee. They’re additionally mentioned to be looking out the crowds for Afghan troopers and safety officers and others who labored straight for American-led forces.

Reporting was contributed by Traci Carl, Rick Gladstone, Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt.

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