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As Intra-Afghan Talks Loom, Taliban Hark To 1990s Regime

Talks between the Afghan government and the hard-line Islamist Taliban movement finally appear to be on the horizon after the two sides announced a brief cease-fire during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha this week.

But it is unclear whether they can overcome the immediate problems of reconciling differences over prisoner releases, extending the cease-fire, and resentment over relentless violence since the Taliban signed an initial peace agreement with the United States in February.

The agreement outlined a roadmap in which American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan in return for Taliban guarantees. The Taliban and supporters of the current Afghan political system, formally called the Islamic Republic, are expected to decide on a shared future political system before the U.S. withdrawal is complete next year.

The Afghan government and Taliban have reportedly reached an agreement over the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad toured the region in an apparent bid to revive the stalled Afghan peace process. The Taliban have freed some 800 Afghan soldiers in return for the release of 4,000 Taliban fighters by the government.

But there is no sign that the Taliban are ready to relinquish their push to recreate the Islamic Emirate, the formal name of their 1990s regime that attracted Afghan opposition and international condemnation for harsh implementation of what the movement called Islamic Shari’a law.

FILE: Afghan army officers carry the coffin of former President Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan in March 2009.

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The Afghan government, civil society, and leaders and factions supporting the republican system also want to preserve the gains of the past two decades, which saw a new pluralistic Afghan political system take hold despite Taliban violence, corruption, declining international aid, and continued interference by Afghanistan’s neighbors.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman in Qatar, said the group is now ready to move ahead with the peace process, offering a timeline that could get the ball rolling on talks. “The Islamic Emirate is ready to release all remaining prisoners of the other side before the eve of Eid al-Adha provided they release our prisoners as per our list already delivered to them,” he wrote on July 23. “Intra-Afghan negotiations will begin immediately after Eid.”

On July 28 Zabihullah Mujahid, another Taliban spokesman, announced a three-day cease-fire during Eid al-Adha, which begins on July 31. He wrote on Twitter that “in order for our people to spend the three days of Eid in confidence and happiness, all fighters are instructed not to carry out any operations during this period.”

Taliban leader Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, however, was vague about exactly what his movement will offer Kabul and what they will demand, indicating instead that the movement still sees itself as absolved of any commitments or responsibilities.

“Domestic parties should immediately remove all obstacles obstructing intra-Afghan dialogue and give priority to the greater interests of our homeland over division of smaller interests,” he said in a July 28 statement issued on the Taliban website, “so that the Afghans may jointly eliminate all internal and potential causes of war and conflict, restore peace to our homeland and reach an understanding among themselves over future Islamic government.”

The recent announcements have stirred mixed feelings among Afghans as they hope for peace but question the Taliban’s ability to keep their promises.

FILE: Convicted Afghan drug lord Hajji Bashar Noorzai.

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Under Ashraf Ghani’s presidency, the Afghan government has emphasized the preservation of republican values and the achievements of the past 19 years in the fields of democracy, human rights, and women’s rights — repeatedly stating that these issues are all part of the government’s “red line” of non-negotiable values.

“If the Taliban continue fighting, the Afghan peace process will face serious challenges,” Ghani said earlier this month. “Unfortunately, the current level of violence is higher compared to last year.” The Afghan leader said that some 3,560 Afghan soldiers have been killed and 6,781 wounded in Taliban attacks since the signing of the U.S.-Taliban deal in February.

On July 28, Ghani urged the Taliban to agree to a “permanent and comprehensive cease-fire” during impending peace talks.

But Mullah Fazel, a former top Taliban military commander and current senior negotiator, indicated in March that re-establishing the Islamic Emirate remains a top priority. “The amir or leader of [a future government] will be ours. There will be an Islamic Emirate, and there will be a system based on Shari’a [Islamic law],” he told Taliban fighters and supporters in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, which has served as a Taliban sanctuary after they were routed from Afghanistan in late 2001.

Fazel maintains that the new Islamic Emirate will be more inclusive. “Unlike in the past, not all [officials] will come from among the ulema or the Taliban,” he said. “The Taliban or the Islamic Emirate will never become part of the Kabul government, but we can grant them [some individuals] a ministry or some other post.”

FILE: Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (C) with members of the Taliban political office in Qatar.

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Khairullah Shinwari, a political activist who has met and talked with Taliban leaders recently, says the Taliban are willing to cooperate with the Afghan government. “They will accept any political system agreed upon in the negotiations between the Afghans as long as it does not conflict with the religious and traditional values of Afghans,” he said.

The question, however, is whether any middle ground between the two sides can be found. Ali Yavar Adeli, an expert at the Afghanistan Analysts Network, says an agreement can only come from a sustained discourse built upon the foundation of achievements and progress. “We need to continue these talks because our values have not been easily achieved,” he said.

“The key issue is to preserve the achievements that go back to the fundamental rights of people, and to continue to bring about peace, a basic desire for all Afghan people,” said Aminullah Habibi, another Kabul-based analyst. Those fundamental rights include women’s rights, a large topic of concern for those who don’t wish to re-imagine life under Taliban rule.

Azra Asghari, a Germany-based women’s rights activist, doubts the Taliban have changed their views concerning women. “I don’t think the Taliban are paying attention to social activities and women’s rights,” she said. “The Taliban determine women’s rights based on outdated traditions, which is not acceptable in this new age.”

In the runup to the long-awaited talks, many questions remain unanswered. On one side of the negotiating table, supporters of the Islamic Republic appear ready to reach an agreed settlement and participate in talks if it means being one step closer to peace in the country. But whether the Taliban are prepared to end their violent campaign and compromise on their political ideals remains to be seen.

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Families of ‘missing persons’ spend Eid protesting on the roads

When the Muslim world was celebrating Eid-ul-Adha on Aug 1st, the families of the Baloch and Sindhi missing persons were protesting on the roads and streets for the recovery of their loved ones.

According to the details, the families of the Baloch missing persons traveled from different regions of Balochistan and organized a protest in Quetta for the recovery of their loved ones on Eid day. Under the auspice of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, a rights group actively working for the recovery of the Baloch missing persons, the protesters launched a rally on the roads and streets of Quetta that culminated as demonstration in the front of the Quetta Press Club.

Mama Qadeer Baloch, the vice-chairman of the VBMP, was leading the protest. According to VBMP, at least 47 thousand Baloch citizens are forcefully disappeared by Pakistan army and intelligence agencies.

The families of the missing persons said that their loved ones are missing for years without any trace. We want to know if they are alive or dead so that we can find some solace, they said. The protesters said that the rulers and politicians can never understand their agony, as they have never suffered such pain. “They are wearing new clothes and celebrating Eid, meanwhile, we protest on the streets for our loved ones,” protestors said.

In Sindh, activist groups like the Voice for Missing Persons of Sindh, Sindh Sabha and Sindh Sajagi Forum pitched a hunger-strike camp for the Sindhi missing persons. Sorth Lohar, Sandhu Amaan, Shazia Chandio, Inaam Abbasi and a few others are leading the strike.

Social reformists Zafar Junejo, Imdad Chandio, Prof. Riaz Ahmed, Naghma Shaikh, Nasir Mansoor and a few others participated in the strike. Asad Batt, the chairman of the Sindh branch of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was also present at the strike.

The demonstrators said that the intelligence agencies are violating the Pakistani constitution by forcefully abducting and killing the Sindhi persons and then throwing their mutilated dead bodies at random locations. They said the forces are undermining the courts’ authority by executing “extrajudicial operations” throughout Sindh. The demonstrators said that the detainees must be produced in courts, and they should be allowed to defend themselves. If the forces operate outside the ambit of the courts and the constitution, then the common citizens are not obliged to follow them either.

The demonstrators said that if the perpetrators of enforced disappearances are more powerful than the Supreme Court and the parliament, then we appeal to the United Nations, Amnesty International and other global rights groups to take notice of the human rights violations in Sindh and Balochistan by the Pakistani state.

The leaders of the demonstration told the media that almost 70 political workers nationalists are missing from Sindh. They said they will soon summon an “all parties conference” of the social, political and human rights organizations in Sindh to address the enforced disappearances and lead our collective struggle in a more organized and powerful fashion.

As the families of the missing persons were protesting on the roads for the recovery of their loved ones, a Baloch woman was allegedly detained by the Pakistani forces in Awaran on Saturday. The woman was identified as Shalli d/o Talahoo. The forces reportedly exercised violence on the householders and forcefully detained Shalli. Many other women have been forcefully disappeared from different regions of Balochistan. Many of the detained women have been released, whereas a significant number are still missing

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UN Says Thousands Of Pakistani Militants In Afghanistan

More than 6,000 Pakistani insurgents are hiding in Afghanistan, a fresh UN report says.

The report released earlier this week said most of the militants belonged to the outlawed Pakistani Talibani group that is responsible for attacks on Pakistani military and civilian targets.

According to the report, the group, known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), has linked up with the Afghan-based affiliate of the Islamic State extremist group. Some TTP members have even joined the IS affiliate, which has its headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.

The Afghan government did not respond on July 26 to requests by the AP news agency for comment.

The report was prepared by the UN analytical and sanctions monitoring team, which tracks terrorist groups around the world.

The report said IS in Afghanistan, known as IS in Khorasan Province, has suffered losses as a result of being targeted by Afghan security forces as well as U.S. and NATO forces, and even on occasion by the Afghan Taliban.

The report estimated that the membership of IS in Afghanistan is 2,200, and while its leadership has been depleted, IS still counts among its leaders a Syrian national, Abu Said Mohammad al-Khorasani.

The report also said the monitoring team had received information that two senior Islamic State commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, had recently arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East.

“Although in territorial retreat, [the Islamic State[ remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul. It also aims to attract Taliban fighters who oppose the agreement with the United States,” the report said, referring to a U.S. peace deal signed with the Taliban in February.

That deal was struck to allow the U.S. to end its 19-year involvement in Afghanistan, and calls on the Taliban to guarantee its territory will not be used by terrorist groups. The deal is also expected to guarantee the Taliban’s all-out participation in the fight against IS.

The second and perhaps most critical part of the agreement calls for talks between the Taliban and Kabul’s political leadership.

Late on July 25, the U.S. State Department issued a statement saying its peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, was again shuttling through the region seeking to jump start those negotiations, which have been repeatedly postponed as both sides squabble over a prisoner release program.

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Iran’s Taliban Connection: Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir

Publication: Militant Leadership Monitor Volume: 11 Issue: 6

By: 

 

On June 1, a report from the UN monitoring team was publicly released, stating that, “at least one group of senior Taliban had already formed a new group in opposition to any possible peace agreement, purportedly known as Hezb-e Wilayat Islami…” The report stated that the group was formed by former Taliban leaders residing outside Afghanistan. Further investigation by other sources concluded that this new faction was formed and is now based in Iran (Tolo News, June 3; UN, May 27; Gandhara, June 9).

While the exact membership of the new group has not yet been revealed, the recent news brings to focus the role of Taliban leaders with ties to Tehran. One of the most prominent of such leaders is Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir.

Zakir was born in 1973 in Soply, in the Kajaki district of Helmand province. He is an ethnic Pashtun and member of the Alizai tribe. Zakir is believed to have joined the Taliban in 1997, rising to a position of leadership within the organization. In 2001, however, he surrendered to U.S.-led coalition forces in Mazar-e-Sharif as the Taliban regime began collapsing. He became a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, until his transfer to the Afghan prison Pul-e-Charki prison in December 2007. However, in a move that would prove controversial, Zakir would be released by the government in May 2008, allegedly due to pressure from tribal elders (Afghan Bios, September 4, 2016; Al Jazeera, January 27, 2016).

After his release, Zakir quickly rejoined the insurgency, traveling to Quetta, Pakistan, and becoming an influential in the Quetta Shura, or Rahbari Shura, the Taliban leadership council. From there, he became a prominent deputy to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the founder and then-leader of the Taliban, overseeing operations in southern Afghanistan and the organizations’ provincial shadow governments, including in his native Helmand.

In 2010, Mullah Omar appointed Zakir as leader of the Taliban’s military commission, in charge of the insurgency’s day-to-day operations throughout Afghanistan. Zakir was reportedly removed from his position in 2014 due to differences with the senior Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour. The Taliban statement at the time stated that his resignation from the position was “due to his prolonged battle with ill-health,” but it was believed to be due to Zakir and Mansour’s differences over peace negotiations with the Afghan government.

In 2015, when Mullah Omar’s death was publicly revealed—he is believed to have actually died in 2013—Mansour succeeded him. Mansour’s elevation to leadership sparked internal tension within the Taliban and the emergence of breakaway factions in the group. He reportedly attempted to open negotiations with the Afghan government, and was considered close to Pakistani intelligence. Zakir had boycotted the process which appointed Mansour as supreme leader in 2015, and in fact favored the appointment of Mullah Omar’s son, Mullah Yaqoob (Al Jazeera, August 3, 2015). In addition, Zakir, an avowed hardliner, was opposed to reconciliation with the Afghan and U.S. governments. However, Zakir swore allegiance to Mansour on March 30, 2016, after the new leader reportedly met some of his demands (Pakistan Tribune, March 30, 2016). These demands were rumored to include a review of the Taliban’s intra-Afghan peace strategy and other internal policies. Zakir, an avowed hardliner, held back on swearing allegiance to Mansour because of what he saw as a conciliatory policy toward the Afghan government, and closeness with Pakistan (Outlook, April 11, 2016). Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike in May 2016, and was succeeded within four days by Haibatullah Akhundzada, the current leader of the Taliban. Akhundzada was considered an apolitical choice, and was reportedly the unanimous decision of the Quetta Shura (Pakistan Tribune, May 26, 2016; Outlook Afghanistan, May 29, 2016; see MLM, December 10, 2018).

Zakir’s replacement as head of the Taliban’s military commission, Ibrahim Sardar, was himself recently replaced by Mullah Yaqoob on May 7, 2020. Following this reorganization, Sardar and Zakir were made deputies to Yaqoob, with each overseeing operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan, respectively (Arab News, May 10). The move was seen as an attempt to unify the organization’s leadership in the runup to intra-Afghan peace talks. Sardar and Zakir are both Alizai tribesmen, and hardliners who are opposed to peace talks. The two are representative of a wider faction in favor of continued fighting, and are opposed to the Nurazi tribal faction loyal to Akhundzada (UN, May 27; see MLM, June 2).

Connection to Iran

In October 2014, Zakir reportedly led a secret delegation of Taliban leaders to Iran, to discuss the possibility of establishing a safe haven there for the organization. Zakir hoped the meeting would result in a new foreign sponsor that would balance the influence of the Pakistani government on the Taliban. However, Tehran refused to provide safe haven for the group unless it broke ties with al-Qaeda, which Zakir refused to do. He was able to attain financial assistance from Tehran, however, and the Iranian emissaries would allow the treatment of injured Taliban fighters to occur in their country (see TM, June 12, 2015). For Zakir, this was an attempt to regain influence in the organization after his removal by Mansour as head of the Taliban’s military commission.

While this early mission to Iran was not a complete success, it did place Zakir in connection to Iranian officials. On October 23, 2018, the U.S. Treasury, under the multinational Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) designated nine Taliban officials for facilitating support for the group from Iran, in order to undermine the Afghan government. One of these nine individuals was Ibrahim Sadar, who is closely aligned with Zakir as leaders of a conservative, hardline faction of the Taliban. U.S. Treasury reports that Sadar received monetary support and individual combat training to its fighters from Iran (U.S. Treasury, October 23, 2018; Gandhara, June 10). Iran is attempting to use its support to make inroads with the group, hedging its bets in case the Taliban successfully takes over the country and reestablishes their Islamic Emirate.

Conclusion

Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir remains a popular military leader among hardline Taliban commanders in Afghanistan. Despite losing his position as head of the group’s military commission in 2014, and becoming a deputy to the younger Mullah Yaqoob in 2020, he still holds support and influence over a large number of fighters. Zakir holds the potential to act as a spoiler in the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan. With the support of a conservative, hardline faction within the Taliban, which he leads, and with connections to Iran—making him potentially more independent from Pakistani pressure—Zakir has little motivation to engage in the peace process. He will likely continue to push his organization to continue fighting until they have accomplished their military objectives on the battlefield, which is the departure of US forces from Afghanistan. 

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8 Civilians Killed in Pakistani Mortar Attack on Kunar: Officials

Afghan military personnel were also killed in the attacks, said the officials, adding that several Afghan forces checkpoints were also destroyed in the attack.

Local officials in Kunar have said that the firefight between Afghan and Pakistani forces broke out after Pakistani forces tried to establish new check posts inside the Afghan territory.

“Pakistani military forces came in a helicopter and they wanted to create checkpoints, so our security forces did not allow this and then clashes broke out,” said Din Mohammad Safai, a member of Kunar’s provincial council.

“We will not abandon this area up until the lost drop of our blood and we will defend our motherland,” said Ibrahim, an officer of the Afghan Border Forces.

“Bullets came and took the life of my son,” said Zahirullah, a resident in Kunar.

Five months back, similar clashes broke out in the same area between Afghan and Pakistani forces.

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Taliban Violence ‘Undermines Confidence in Peace’: NATO

NATO called on all sides to rapidly start intra-Afghan talks, adding that NATO allies will continue to consult on its military presence to support the peace process.

“An Afghan-owned and led peace process aimed at finding a political resolution that ends decades of conflict is the only way to deliver sustainable peace to the Afghan people and to ensure Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability,” it said, adding that “NATO and its partners are committed to contributing to an environment conducive to this outcome. We call on all sides to rapidly resolve the remaining issues still precluding the start of inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.”

The statement said that the current level of violence – driven especially by Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces, “remains unacceptably high, causing instability and undermining confidence in the peace process.”

The statement also mentioned the 2018 and 2020 Eid al-Fitr ceasefires and the period of reduced violence leading up to the signing of the US-Taliban agreement.

NATO mentioned in the statement that the military presence of the alliance and its partners in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan “is conditions-based.”

“We will continue to consult and, if conditions allow, to adjust our military presence to support the peace process, initiated by the US-Taliban agreement and the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration. We urge the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban to fulfill their commitments, including entering into intra-Afghan negotiations and ensuring terrorists never again find safe haven on Afghan soil,” read the statement.

“Recent heinous attacks targeting civilians, including women, children, civil society members, religious figures, and health care workers throughout Afghanistan underscore the urgency of fulfilling these critical commitments,” it added.

NATO reaffirms its longstanding commitment to Afghanistan, the Afghan people, and the Afghan security forces through the Resolute Support Mission.

“We expect intra-Afghan negotiations to lead to an enduring and comprehensive peace agreement that puts an end to violence, safeguards the human rights of all Afghans, including women and children, upholds the rule of law, and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists,” NATO said.

“It is time for all parties to seize this moment for peace,” it added.

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Taliban Attack On Intelligence Agency Office Kills At Least 11, Wound Dozen Samangan province

A major Taliban attack on the offices of Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency has killed at least 11 security personnel and wounded dozens of others, mostly civilians.

A group of militants detonated a car bomb at the entrance of the National Security Directorate (NDS) offices in Aybak, the capital of the northern province of Samangan, and then stormed the building.

Provincial Governor Abdul Latif Ibrahimi told RFE/RL that the ensuing hours-long gunbattle ended with the death of all four attackers.

Ibrahimi said all 11 government personnel killed in the clashes were members of the NDS.

He said 63 people, mostly civilians, were wounded in the attack.

Mohammad Hashim Sarwari, deputy chief for the provincial council, said a suicide car bomber targeted the NDS office and the blast was a signal for other Taliban fighters to storm the building.

The Taliban routinely stages such complex attacks on government targets in urban centers.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed both the bombing and the subsequent attack.

The attack came as the Taliban intensified attacks in northern Afghanistan.

On July 12, the Taliban attacked checkpoints in northern Kunduz Province, killing at least 14 members of the Afghan security forces, according to Esmatullah Muradi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

Overnight, local officials also accused the Taliban of attacking several security checkpoints, killing seven personnel in the northeastern province of Badakhshan and four in the northern province of Parwan.

A peace deal signed by the Taliban and the United States in February calls for direct negotiations between the militant group and the Western-backed government in Kabul aimed at putting an end to the nearly two-decade-old war in Afghanistan.

The Taliban and government forces have been exchanging accusations over a recent surge in attacks across Afghanistan — even as efforts continue to try and bring about the start of direct peace talks between Kabul and the militants.

Mujahid on July 12 accused the government of delaying the start of talks, saying the militant group was “left with no option but to continue the war.”

President Ashraf Ghani warned on July 6 that the spike in violence posed a “serious” threat to the peace process with the Taliban.

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Afghanistan: Taliban restricts ‘rights’ despite reform claims: HRW

The Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on rights in areas under their control in Afghanistan, despite claims of reform, the Human Rights Watch report said.

The HRW report issued on Tuesday, says residents reported “an inability to criticize or question Taliban actions, violations of the rights of women and girls, and also “severe limits on freedom of expression and the media.”

Rights abuses by both the Taliban and government forces mean that the United States and other countries supporting the peace process “should ensure that any agreement has strong human rights commitments and enforcement mechanisms,” the report says.

The 69-page report, “‘You Have No Right to Complain’: Education, Social Restrictions, and Justice in Taliban-Held Afghanistan,” focuses on the everyday experiences of people living in Taliban-held districts and Taliban restrictions on education, access to information and media, and freedom of movement.

The report says that “the Taliban’s widespread rights abuses in areas it controls raise concerns about their willingness and ability to keep commitments on rights in any future peace agreement.”

“The Taliban have rolled back some of their harshest measures in areas they control, but it remains difficult and dangerous for people to voice objections to Taliban authorities,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Taliban appear intent on ruling by fear, without holding themselves accountable to communities under their control.”

Taliban forces currently control a significant portion of Afghanistan’s land and population, according to the report.

In many of these areas, the report says, residents abide by a parallel set of government laws and Taliban-imposed regulations that govern education, courts, and other services, and establish or reinforce codes of conduct.

While there has been “progress on access to education for girls and women in Taliban-held areas,” there has been “little regard for rights to freedom of expression, information, association, privacy, or media freedom,” the report said.

Although the Taliban officially state that they no longer oppose girls’ education, very few local Taliban authorities actually permit girls to attend school past puberty, and some do not permit girls’ schools at all. Policies apparently based on individual commanders’ personal views have left residents wary.

One teacher quoted in the report said, “Today they tell you that they allow girls up to sixth grade, but tomorrow, when someone else comes instead, he might not like girls’ education.”

“Social controls, embodied in ‘morality’ officials who work for ‘vice and virtue’ departments, operate in Taliban-held districts to enforce residents’ adherence to Taliban-prescribed social codes regarding dress and public deportment, beard length, and men’s attendance at Friday prayers,” the report said.

Taliban officials have said the social restrictions reflect local community norms.

However, while such restrictions exist in both government and Taliban-held areas, some residents, particularly younger people, have resisted these constraints as they seek greater freedom, the report says.

“Taliban officials have punished residents who engage in prohibited social behavior. The Taliban justice system is focused on punishment and largely relies on confessions, often obtained by beatings and other forms of torture,” according to the report.

Residents of Taliban-held districts say that Taliban officials have “not allowed them to air grievances or express concerns.”

The Taliban claim that they hold commanders and other authorities accountable for abuses, but “in practice Taliban officials have seldom considered practices amounting to war crimes, including unlawful attacks that have killed civilians, to be wrongful acts,” says Human Rights Watch.

“The Taliban publicly claim that they don’t put civilians in harm’s way but have punished residents who complain about Taliban forces entering their homes to attack government troops,” Gossman said.

The current Afghan constitution and laws enacted since 2002 include many human rights protections, including gender equality, but implementation in government-controlled areas has been poor, the report finds.

“Government forces have committed serious human rights abuses, including torture, and have often failed to protect women’s rights,” the report says, adding that “both the Taliban and current and former government leaders have been implicated in war crimes and other abuses.”

There is “near total impunity for serious violations,” the report concludes.

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