Afghan citizens risk executions, forced marriages and other possible war crimes as the Taliban sweep the country, struggling to control ineffective government forces as the withdrawal of US troops approaches, according to US officials and officials. watch groups.
Militants have taken over the territory at an alarming rate as Afghan government troops and their allied militias fail to provide effective resistance – sometimes surrendering without even fighting.
The US embassy in Kabul said on Wednesday it was receiving reports that members of the Taliban were executing Afghan troops who were illegally surrendering and detaining some members of the government, including military leaders, provincial officials and police.
The executions “could constitute war crimes,” the embassy tweeted.
A Taliban spokesperson denied that the group was executing prisoners at The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, although testimony contradicted that claim. The Taliban have also denied claims that its activists demanded that the conquered territories provide them with women aged 15 and over as wives.
“The Taliban’s statements in Doha do not resemble their actions in Badakhshan, Ghazni, Helmand and Kandahar,” Ross Wilson, US charge d’affaires in Kabul, wrote on Twitter, referring to the stalled peace talks in the capital. from Qatar. “Attempts to monopolize power through violence, fear and war will only lead to international isolation.”
He also accused the Taliban of “targeted assassinations”.
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A report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission on civilian casualties in the country in the first six months of 2021 found that 1,677 people had been killed and 3,644 others injured by the end of June.
That’s an 80% increase from the same period in 2020, according to the report, and “the bloodiest six months for Afghan civilians since the AIHRC began documenting.”
The group blamed the Taliban for more than 900 of the deaths and more than 2,000 injuries – double what it was responsible for last year. Pro-government forces were blamed for 229 dead and 565 injured.
Faridoon Hazeen, an Afghan translator who has assisted US forces in the region, told Fox News on Friday that the Taliban’s rapid sweep across the country made him fear for his life.
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“I feel like a drowning man,” said the 39-year-old father of four. “I reach out to anything and anyone to save me.”
The Taliban are used to targeting translators like Hazeen, and the State Department has worked to transport many of them and their families to safety with Operation Allies Refuge. President Biden, at Camp David, held a virtual meeting with his national security team on Saturday to discuss efforts to evacuate interpreters and other Afghans at risk, according to the White House.
“Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now in danger,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday afternoon. “We are working to evacuate thousands of those who have helped our cause and their families.”
There have also been reports of attacks on Shia Muslims – who follow a different Islamic sect than the Sunni Taliban, as well as business owners and other civilians.
Most of the civilian casualties were found in the southwestern part of the country, which includes Kandahar and Helmand province, which the Taliban seized on Friday, while they also captured at least three other provincial capitals.
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About 400,000 Afghan citizens have been displaced by the violence since May, according to the United Nations.
Amid the chaos, the United States is reducing its military presence and civilian personnel.
The Pentagon announced Friday that it was sending 3,000 military personnel to Kabul to help the State Department evacuate the embassy there. By Saturday, the number had risen to 5,000.
Other Western countries are also reducing or closing their embassies in the city, and even the UN has said it is relocating some staff and monitoring the situation.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House Leader from California, said the Biden administration was mismanaging the pullout in a statement Friday after a phone call with Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Adela Raz.
“At a time when our troops are in danger and our Afghan allies are being targeted and killed, we cannot condone the situation which has spiraled out of control,” said McCarthy. “Our brave men and women in uniform and the allies who have stood by us for the past 20 years deserve better.”
The Taliban have captured Afghanistan’s second, third and fourth cities, as well as more than two-thirds of the country’s 34 provinces.
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Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, urged the Biden administration to “hammer” the Taliban forces with airstrikes to counter their offensive.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Friday that the Afghan military has the technology, training and equipment to fight back – but it really needs to step up and do it.
“They have the material, physical, tangible benefits,” he said. “Now is the time to use these benefits.”
President Biden sent a similar message to the Afghan military earlier this week.
“They must want to fight,” he said on Tuesday. “They outnumber the Taliban.
Greg Palkot of Fox News, Marisa Schultz and Associated Press contributed to this report.
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