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Taliban continue to target former members of the previous government.

January 13, 2023

Summary: Since the Taliban took power in August 2021, former members of the previous government have been hunted and targeted for revenge attacks, including illegal detention, violence, torture, “disappearance” and execution.  A very difficult environment for journalists limits the amount of reliable information available and makes the risk of reprisals difficult to assess.  It is highly likely that such persecutions will continue.  The risk of aggressive targeting looks to include relatively low profile former officials as well as family members.

In August 2021, when the Ghani government collapsed and the Taliban took control over Kabul and, de facto, the rest of the country, Taliban media representatives were quick to offer “amnesty” for former members of the government and of the security forces.  Many analysts and observers were sceptical.  The indications from Taliban soldiers during the fighting over the previous summer were not encouraging.  During fighting in June 2021, before the capital fell, the Taliban executed 22 Afghan Special Forces soldiers (who were a component of the NDS) who had surrendered after running out of ammunition.[1] 

The amnesty was never adhered to.  Many members of the government and armed forces – including those at particularly high risk – interpreters, air force pilots and members of the NDS, the former intelligence service – managed to escape abroad.  Many others, however, were unable (or chose not) to escape and remained in Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban took power, former members of the previous government have been hunted and targeted for revenge attacks.[2]  Former members of the government, therefore, continue to be at very high risk of illegal detention, torture (to extract information or as punishment), “disappearance” and summary execution.[3] 

In November 2021, Human Rights Watch noted:

“Taliban forces in Afghanistan have summarily executed or forcibly disappeared more than 100 former police and intelligence officers in just four provinces since taking over the country on August 15, 2021, despite a proclaimed amnesty, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.”[4] 

In April 2022 a New York Times study developed this research further and put the figure at closer to 500.  It is highly likely that many other deaths and disappearances remain unaccounted for:

“The revenge killings were widespread, touching every region of the country, shattering families and communities, and giving a lie to the Taliban’s promises of tolerance and moderation.  After initially denying that such killings were occurring, the Taliban leadership has come to acknowledge some of them, though has insisted that those acts were the work of rogue commanders and not an authorized campaign.  But the number of killings, and their ubiquity, might suggest otherwise. So would their ruthlessness, including summary executions that were captured on video…”[5]

A UNAMA report, ‘Human Rights in Afghanistan, 15 August 2021 – 15 June 2022’, summarised the human rights situation since the Taliban came to power.  With regard to the plight of former members of the Afghan armed forces it stressed the following findings:

“On 17 August 2021, the de facto authorities announced an amnesty for former government officials and Afghan National Security and Defense Force members. This amnesty does not, however, appear to have been consistently upheld, with UNAMA recording at least 160 extrajudicial killings of former government and security officials by members of the de facto authorities between 15 August 2021 and 15 June 2022.

UNAMA is concerned about the impunity with which members of the de facto authorities appear to have carried out human rights violations. UNAMA’s report details extrajudicial killings of individuals accused of affiliation with armed groups, as well as cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments and extrajudicial killings of individuals accused of ‘moral’ crimes and the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials…Over the reporting period, UNAMA documented…160 extrajudicial killings, 178 arbitrary arrests and detentions, 23 instances of incommunicado detention and 56 instances of torture and ill-treatment of former ANDSF and government officials carried out by the de facto authorities.”[6]

In September 2022, Afghan media reported the following case:

“A former member of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) has died after being detained and severely tortured by the Taliban in a prison.  According to sources, the victim’s name was Khan Mohammad and he was a resident of Surobi district of Kabul.  About a week ago, he was arrested near his home in Kabul and taken to the prison of the Taliban Intelligence Directorate.

Mohammad’s body was handed over to his family members at 9:00 pm on Wednesday night this week.  The victim’s friends confirm that he died of deep wounds just two hours after being released.  So far, the motive behind his detention is not yet reported and the Taliban have not commented on the case either.

Previously, many cases of arrest, torture and even killing of former military personnel by the Taliban have been reported.”[7]

A similar incident against a former NDS officer was reported in December 2022:

“A former national security officer was killed mysteriously in southern Kandahar province.  Independent sources identified the victim as Mujahid Barak, explaining that he disappeared last Thursday in the vicinity of the 4th police district of Kandahar city.  According to sources, the body of this person was found on Friday (December 16th) in Mianko mountains, PD9, Kandahar city.

Mujahid Barak served in the National Directorate of Security (NDS) of during the former republic government.  Mujahid’s relatives said that he was killed by the Taliban. But the Taliban in Kandahar have not commented on how this NDS officer was killed.

Mysterious killing of members of the former Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in Kandahar is not unprecedented. Not long ago, numerous ANDSF members were killed in Spin Boldak district.”[8]

There have been several similar reports in January 2023.[9]  The information environment in Afghanistan is extremely difficult: journalists are harassed and targeted if they report information that is perceived by the Taliban to be critical of them.  Humanitarian organisations will struggle to investigate reports because of the still volatile security situation. It is likely that there are many more incidents of harassment, illegal detention, violence and killings going unreported.

[1] ‘Taliban executes 22 Afghan commandos who surrendered – witnesses’, TRT World, 13 July 2021,

[2] Scollen, M., ‘Taliban Takes Revenge On Former Security Forces’, RFE/RL, 12 Oct. 2021, and  Rubin, T., ‘Afghans who helped U.S. face Taliban revenge if we don’t save them now’, Trib Extra, 22 Oct. 2021,

[3] ‘Dozens of former Afghan forces killed or disappeared by Taliban, rights group says’, BBC News, 30 Nov. 2021,

[4]  ‘No Forgiveness for People Like You’, Human Rights Watch, 30 Nov. 2021,

[5] Marcolini, B., Sohail, S., and Stockton, A., ‘The Taliban Promised Them Amnesty.  Then They Executed Them’, The New York Times, 12 Apr. 2022,

[6] ‘UN releases report on human rights in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover’, UNAMA press release, 20 July 2022,

[7] ‘Taliban Rebels Brutally Kill a Former NDS Member’, Hasht e Subh Daily, 9 Sep. 2022,

[8] ‘Former NDS Officer Mysteriously Killed in Kandahar’, Hasht-e Subh Daily, 17 Dec. 2022,


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