Journalist and human rights activist Natiq Malikzada has been at the forefront of efforts to document Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan , which he said have historically targeted former Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel, and Tajiks from Panjshir, where the Taliban has faced armed opposition from the National Resistance Front. Over the past few months, Malikzada told me he has seen targeted killings and illegal detentions of ANDSF personnel increase. Though he says the international community has “chosen…to ignore these incidents,” he told me of several.
In late January, Malikzada said former special forces member Sattar Sidat was arrested by the Taliban. On Feb. 4, his dismembered body was found in Jowzjan province. The Washington Examiner was provided a photo of his body, but it is too graphic to publish.
In February, Malikzada said the Taliban made an announcement that they had buried the bodies of 144 addicts who had died from drug use. Among the bodies uncovered in the Kabul grave was that of Ghulam Rabani, a Panjshiri former ANDSF officer. The Taliban claimed Rabani died of illness, but his family says he was tortured while imprisoned.
Ghulam Rabani, a former ANDSF officer from Panjshir, was found buried with a group of 144 alleged drug users in February. Courtesy of Natiq Malikzada.
On Mar. 8, Malikzada said Abdul Khaliq Kochi was among eight the Taliban shot and killed in Mazar-e Sharif. Their bloody bodies were left in the city, loosely covered in blankets. The Taliban claimed all eight were members of the Khawarij Muslim sect, but Kochi was a former ANDSF soldier.
Abdul Khaliq Kochi served in the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. He was killed, and his body was displayed publicly on Mar. 8. Courtesy of Natiq Malikzada.
ANDSF members who remain in the country are concerned about increased threats on their lives, including “X,” a former special forces member. In February, X reached out to U.S. Air Force veteran Paul Alkoby in a panic to inform him that his close family member had been arrested by the Taliban, who wanted information about X’s whereabouts. X is one of the hundreds of civilians and special forces personnel Alkoby worked to help evacuate through Hamid Karzai International Airport in August 2021. Because of X, Alkoby has again been pulled into the fray of volunteers desperately trying to evacuate endangered Afghan allies.
Afghan special forces member “X” supported U.S. special forces teams. He has qualified for a special immigrant visa but remains in Afghanistan. Courtesy of Paul Alkoby.
Extenuating circumstances exacerbate X’s situation. In 2018 while he was working with members of Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha, X was targeted with a Taliban improvised explosive device and lost one leg below the knee. During 19 months in hiding, X suffered intermittent infections in his amputated leg. X improved only after a generous donor funded a surgery performed in X’s safe house.
Still, being in hiding has been difficult for X. His wife struggles with severe anxiety. Alkoby says X has a hard time knowing that his injuries affect his ability to protect his family if the Taliban find him. Those injuries also make it difficult for Alkoby to find a way to evacuate X. Relying on X’s special immigrant visa application for safe passage seems equally implausible, given the program’s interminable delays .
Regardless, Alkoby says he and the team of individuals working to help X will not give up. The “resources that we’ve allocated to try to keep him going are really substantial,” Alkoby told me. “I do hope at the end of the day that some type of government intervention can make all that work that everyone put in for this worthwhile because a lot of people have sacrificed a lot [because] he has contributed to keeping U.S. service members safe.”
Even as allies and ANDSF personnel face heightened threats, the Taliban receive bi-monthly payments of $40 million dollars for humanitarian aid. This is a big mistake. The U.S. should instead invest in efforts to protect members of the ANDSF, a force they appropriated over $ 78 billion dollars to sustain.
Beth Bailey (@BWBailey85) is a freelance writer from the Detroit area and the co-host of The Afghanistan Project, which takes a deep dive into the tragedy wrought in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.