The Taliban armed group has taken responsibility for the killing of a comic this week in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar, raising the spectre of revenge killings as the US-led foreign forces are about to complete their pullout from the war-torn country.
A video of two men slapping and abusing Nazar Mohammad, better known as Khasha Zwan, spread widely on social media. He was later killed, shot multiple times. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid acknowledged that the two men were Taliban.
The men have been arrested and will be tried, Mujahid said. He alleged that the comic, from the southern part of Kandahar province, was also a member of the Afghan National Police and had been implicated in the torture and killing of Taliban.
Mujahid said the Taliban should have arrested the comic and brought him before a Taliban court, instead of killing him.
Mohammad was not a TV personality but would post his routines on TikTok. He was known for crude jokes, funny songs, poking fun at himself, and often making fun of topics thrown at him from fans.
The brutality of the killing heightened fears of revenge attacks. It also undermined the Taliban’s assurances that no harm would come to people who worked for the government, with the US military or with US organisations.
The Afghan forces have also been accused of carrying out summary executions of people in some cases.
According to US watchdog group SIGAR, the Afghan government faces an “existential crisis” after the Taliban doubled its attacks following the February 2020 agreement with the US.
The deal called for the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban, ending the United States’ longest overseas war. The armed group largely honoured the agreement as it avoided targeting US forces, but it continued attacks against Afghan forces.
The report (PDF), published on Thursday, said Taliban attacks on Afghan targets surged from 6,700 in the three months up to the Doha agreement to 13,242 in the September-November 2020 period.
The Doha agreement also paved the way for peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan leadership.
But the Taliban-government talks have stalled while the US has steadily pulled out troops to a level of only several hundred now, with an August 31 deadline for full withdrawal.
‘Revenge for past wrongs’
In an interview last week with The Associated Press news agency, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said the group’s commanders have orders not to interfere with civilians or impose restrictions in newly captured areas. He said that when complaints of wrongdoings arise they are investigated.
However Patricia Gossman of Human Rights Watch says that revenge killings have been committed by all sides during Afghanistan’s decades of war.
“The war, all 43 years of it, has a revenge-driven dynamic,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.
“Revenge for past wrongs, including terrible atrocities, committed by one side or the other has been a mobilising factor for all the various armed forces.”
For example, in 2001 when the US-led coalition removed the Taliban and many surrendered, hundreds were packed into containers by troops loyal to armed leader Rashid Dostum, with dozens suffocating in the brutally hot sun.
Others who returned home after the Taliban defeat were often singled out for extortion by government officials.
Reports have also since surfaced of US-allied armed leaders calling in American air attacks on supposed Taliban or al-Qaeda targets that turned out to involve personal vendettas, not fighters.
The fear of revenge has driven as many as 18,000 Afghans who worked for the US military to apply for Special Immigration Visas to the United States.
In Washington and in NATO capitals there is a growing demand to evacuate Afghans who worked with the military.