Taliban who have been raised in war bring a heavy hand into security roles

KABUL (AP) -- After leaving a wedding at night, everyone got quiet as they approached Kabul's checkpoint. There, two Taliban with automatic rifles manned the checkpoint.

Taliban who have been raised in war bring a heavy hand into security roles

One of the fighters shined a light into the car. Fatima Abdullahi, with her two children, was sitting in the backseat. She squeezed her younger sister Zainab, and a colleague at work, between them. They were waved through by the fighter.

Two shots were fired seconds later. Zainab sank against her sister. Abdullahi screamed and begged Abdullahi to get up. Zainab, 25 was dead.

"I took her face into my hands, but she didn’t move. Abdullahi told The Associated Press that she saw blood behind her and realized that she had been shot.

Officials from Taliban claim that the Jan. 13 shooting was caused by a mix-up. One guard didn't realize the other had given permission for the car to leave. Both guards were arrested and the Taliban administration has apologized for the shootings. They went to Zainab's home and promised justice, giving 600,000 Afghanis ($5,825), and also apologizing for the deaths.

The death of Zainab highlights a problem facing Afghanistan's new rulers, as they transition from fighting an insurgency into governing. Taliban want to maintain discipline over the thousands of young fighters who bring heavy-handed war tactics into their new positions as security forces. These young men are only skilled in war and have never been educated. They cannot read or write. Their only skill is fighting, and their weapons are as familiar as their mobile phones.

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Many people in Kabul are afraid of the Taliban, despite it being a thriving capital. Five months after their victory, Taliban still roam the streets of Kabul, their weapons protruding high above the ground, in pickup trucks. Although their numbers are lower than they were when they took over the city, they are still very visible.

It is hard to demobilize fighters because they have no other options. According to Michael Kugelman (deputy director of the Asia Program, U.S.-based Wilson Center), "Too many fighters lack education and training to enter civilian life, and even those who do have the skills can’t find jobs due to the economic crisis,"

Mariam, Zainab’s mother, says that Zainab cries every day at her family's Kabul home, which is Shiite-dominated. She stares at the door expecting Zainab’s return.

Zainab was due to marry in two months. Even though the Taliban banned women from working, she continued to work as an auditor at a local charity where her sister Fatima worked.

"She was my last child. She was adorable. Mariam said that they could have killed me, but not my Zainab. Mariam was keeping warm in Kabul's winter chill by using a coal burner. "If they started the car, I would have covered Zainab so the bullet would have struck me," said Mariam. Zainab's father Nadir Ali was nearby, wrapped in a blanket and his legs weak. Mariam claims he is unable to work anymore, and Zainab was his only source of income.

The Taliban leadership is more concerned with dissidents than individual Taliban fighters. Women protestors have been dispersed by the Taliban using pepper spray and firing in the air. Journalists have been beaten and detained by the Taliban. Night raids by intelligence officers on protesters' homes to arrest them have been particularly alarming in recent weeks.

Obaidullah Bheer, a social activist who is also a lecturer at American University of Afghanistan, fears that the Taliban will adopt the same tactics as past Afghan intelligence agencies.

These agencies have a history of brutality that dates back to the 1980s' procommunist government. Hundreds were arrested and killed, with many others dumped in mass graves. The National Directorate of Security, an intelligence agency known as the National Directorate of Security, was established in 2001 to detain thousands of Afghans believed to be Taliban. According to rights groups, hundreds disappeared at so-called "black sites" where torture was performed.

The Taliban have created their own General Directorate of Intelligence.

Baheer stated that while we often expect the victim to feel pain and be there to stop it, they often push it further." "The Taliban should realize that the Deep State's behavior will only alienate the population over the long-term," said Baheer.

Skeptical leaders around the world have been closely watching how the Taliban are able to transition to government at a time when Afghanistan's economy is in crisis and people are starving. The Taliban have so far been firmly in control of their transition to governing. They are trying to adapt to new realities, but refusing to allow others to take part in their decisions.

There are indications that the interim Taliban Cabinet may be trying to bring order into their ranks.

Many Taliban fighters are now wearing camouflage uniforms from the former Afghan Defense and Security Forces. According to Latfullah Hkimi, the head of the Taliban's purification commission, which investigates complaints about its fighters and is charged with investigating them, thousands of ex-Taliban have been arrested or fired for a range of crimes, from intimidation to corruption.

The Taliban's notorious 20-year rule was marked by harsh punishments. This includes public executions for murderers and hand amputations to thieves.

Low-ranking commanders used impromptu punishments to punish suspected crimes. More suspects are now brought before courts, where judges make their decisions. Although the judges are Taliban-approved and have received religious training, they operate with very little transparency. However, their rulings can limit vigilante acts by fighters.

Former military personnel have not been as successful as the Taliban in persuading them to return to their ranks. Few have responded to the call as they are too scared to admit their military pasts amid revenge killings of ex-officers.

According to Anatol Lieven (a senior researcher at the Quincy Institute of Responsible Statecraft), Taliban leaders have explicitly forbidden revenge attacks and have been successful in curtailing them.

Lieven, who was there for four decades during the war in Afghanistan, said that he expected more revenge killings.

Many Afghans still see the Taliban as a terrifying sight in their cities. Photos and videos of alleged Taliban abuses, such as threats to or removal from homes, are all over social media.

Some videos are altered, though. One video showed a Taliban fighter cutting the hair of a man and saying that he was trying to enforce a new rule that requires all young men to cut their hair. The AP found the original video of a Taliban fighter catching a thief and punishing him by cutting his hair. Many Taliban have long hair, and many have stopped cutting their hair.

Lieven warned that the West might not be able to answer the questions of the Taliban as the world watches them deal with their ruling.

Lieven stated, "After the 20-years of Western-directed state building in Afghanistan, is the West in any place to tell Afghanistan what the right direction is?"

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