Taliban propaganda blitz offers security for crime-ravaged Kabul

Ben Farmer
·3-min read
An Afghan child sits on a water tank at Nadir Khan hill in Kabul on October 1, 2019. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images - AFP
An Afghan child sits on a water tank at Nadir Khan hill in Kabul on October 1, 2019. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images - AFP

The Taliban have offered to protect Kabul residents from gun-toting robbers and kidnappers as the militants seek to take advantage of public anger at a surge in violent crime.

A campaign of announcements posted on mosques in the Afghan capital earlier this month said militant patrols would tackle criminals who have left the city in fear.

Kabul has seen growing resentment at the government's failure to stem widespread robberies, kidnappings and murders. Last week the president, Ashraf Ghani, said his deputy, Amrullah Saleh, would personally oversee attempts to clean up the city a day after a group of armed robbers raided a high school and looted students' mobile phones

Taliban posters left in the east of Kabul, some only 100 yards from police checkpoints, claimed their fighters were already patrolling in some parts of the city.

“We are planing to extend our security patrolling to those parts of the city where there you feel more in danger and risk,” the statements said.

Analysts said the propaganda campaign exaggerated the Taliban's reach and influence in the city, but showed they were adept at tapping into frustration at the government.

Residents and traders told the Telegraph it had become too dangerous to venture out after dark and blamed the government for being too weak on criminals. Fear of crime has heightened unease about the future, as US troops withdraw rapidly, violence is unabated and tentative peace talks appear stalled.

Hadi Khoshnawis, a 27-year-old, said he did not go out after 6pm any more and set his phone to silent to avoid attracting attention.

“When someone walks behind me on the street, I am scared to death. I am afraid of the sound of footsteps,” he said.

“During the Taliban’s regime, people could leave behind their money on the street and pray. Now the crime statistics have skyrocketed. The price for robbery is so low. People talk about the Taliban’s regime.”

Delawar Hidari, 33, said his brother, Sayed Muzafarshah, had been stabbed to death a week ago during a hold-up at the family chemist shop in western Kabul. The three robbers had apparently only been in their late teens, and also carried a pistol.

If the killers were ever caught he predicted they would use bribes and personal connections to escape punishment.

“We are afraid of this country,” he said. “When we go to the countryside, we are afraid of the Taliban. In the city and capital, we do not feel safe.

“If there was a government, such incidents would not have happened. For 20 minutes, there was a fight and police did not show up. We have lost our hope for the government.”

Promises of swift justice have been at the centre of the Taliban insurgency's campaign against the government. The movement swept to power in the 1990s after promising to stamp out predatory warlords and their criminal gangs.

But residents said the Taliban were little better than the criminals they professed to stop.

“The Taliban are no less than bandits," said Dr Abdullah Khan, who last week had the Taliban notice posted on his mosque in the Bagrami neighbourhood. “It’s like a clean-up operation by one criminal group against the other.

“The Taliban and kidnappers are allies with each other. Kidnappers take people from Kabul and shift them to Taliban areas, where Taliban keep them hostage.

“We are caught between the Taliban and criminals like between the devil and the deep-sea .”