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Taliban house to house searches intimidate the population

March 10, 2022


Six months after the Taliban’s seizure of power, the Taliban techniques for ability to enforce law and order are based on aggression, coercion, violence and intimidation.  Many social groups appear to be deliberately targeted, including women, activists and journalists.  Disappearances and killings remain a feature of life under the Taliban.  In late February the Taliban initiated an aggressive series of house to house searches in Kabul.

House to house searches

Since the Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021, many house to house searches have been undertaken by Taliban fighters looking for those they believe oppose them, including former government officials and former security personnel. 

“The Taliban have stepped up their search for people who worked for Nato forces or the previous Afghan government, a report has warned.  It said the militants have been going door-to-door to find targets and threaten their family members…The warning the group were targeting ‘collaborators’ came in a confidential document by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, which provides intelligence to the UN.

‘There are a high number of individuals that are currently being targeted by the Taliban and the threat is crystal clear,’ Christian Nellemann, who heads the group behind the report, told the BBC.  ‘It is in writing that, unless they give themselves in, the Taliban will arrest and prosecute, interrogate and punish family members on behalf of those individuals.’

He warned that anyone on the Taliban’s blacklist was in severe danger, and that there could be mass executions.”[1]

In late February 2022, the Taliban launched a new wave of extensive house to house searches.[2]  The Taliban operation came as a surprise and was large-scale, involving armed fighters, use of multiple checkpoints and aggressive tactics. 

“The Taliban have been carrying out extensive house searches around the Afghan capital, according to residents, a policy the group’s spokesman said was to detect criminal activity but that some Western diplomats said had targeted ordinary citizens.  Taliban administration spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the searches were part of a ‘clearing operation’ and that houses were only raided if there was a specific report of possible criminal activity…Reuters spoke to seven residents around Kabul, whose names are not being published for security reasons, who said the searches appeared indiscriminate and were spreading fear… Since the Islamist group took over the country in August, observers have warned of emerging signs of a crack-down on dissent and reprisals against former security force members and activists.”[3]

The operation took place in several provinces and was aimed at targeting potential opponents of the Taliban.  But the exact motivations – and the intelligence information upon which the searches were based – are a little unclear.  The Taliban have cited targeting of kidnappers and criminals, as well as efforts to seized weapons, and equipment belonging to the former government.  It might even be considered a pre-emptive strike against growing resistance to the Taliban rule amongst some groups.  

“At a news conference on Sunday, the Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, insisted that the recent searches were aimed at rooting out ‘kidnappers, thieves, evil elements and other criminals.’ He also dismissed accusations of misconduct, characterizing the operation as ‘professional’ and ‘well-planned.’  The operation began in areas seen as resistant to Taliban rule and comes ahead of spring, long known as Afghanistan’s ‘fighting season,’ when the Taliban would launch offensives against the previous government.”

Now, the insurgents-turned-rulers are contending with a reinvigorated threat from the Islamic State affiliate in the east and a budding armed resistance in the north.”[4]

Dozens of Taliban checkpoints have sprung up across Kabul, part of a broad search operation in several provinces.

Figure 1 Taliban checkpoint in Kabul, March 2022, Victor J. Blue for The New York Times[5]

“Trucks with heavy machine guns stopped at street corners, unloading men in camouflage carrying radios and assault rifles. Going door to door, they barged into homes, tossed open drawers and pored through cellphones — looking for any connection to an armed insurgency…The sweep, which began on Friday, has spanned several provinces and remains underway, is the largest operation of its kind since the Taliban seized power in August and the first carried out in daylight.

The searches stoked alarm among many Afghans, some of whom reported mistreatment and property damage by Taliban forces, and offered the latest evidence that the new Taliban, like the old ones, were relying on police-state tactics to assert their authority and stamp out dissent…The search operation began early Friday as dozens of checkpoints spread across Kabul, initially focused on the city’s northern neighborhoods…Taliban soldiers broke the locks on front doors, damaged televisions and storage boxes, and destroyed yards by digging for contraband, according to interviews with nearly a dozen Kabul residents.  In a country where privacy is sacred, many saw the home intrusions as an unforgivable offense reminiscent of two decades of foreign occupation.”[6]

Either way, such unpredictable Taliban activities – which international forces learnt the hard way only serve to inflame – will keep the population fearful and resentful. 

[1] ‘Afghanistan: Taliban carrying out door-to-door manhunt, report says’, BBC News, 20 Aug. 2021,

[2] Abbasi, F., ‘In Afghanistan, Burning Our Past to Protect Our Future’, Human Rights Watch, 1 Mar. 2022,

[3] ‘Taliban begin house searches, sparking fear, diplomatic criticism’, Reuters, 28 Feb. 2022,

[4] [4] Gibbons-Neff, et al, ‘Taliban Search Operation Echoes Resented U.S. Tactics’, The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2022,


[6] Gibbons-Neff, et al, ‘Taliban Search Operation Echoes Resented U.S. Tactics’, The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2022,

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 10, 2022 5:02 pm

    Hard to comment without being trite or inappropriate or crude.

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