The Taliban are “intensifying” their search for Afghans who helped the United States and have a “list of people” they intend to “question and punish,” according to a Thursday report from The New York Times, based on a document prepared by the United Nations.
The development seems to complicate assurances from the Biden administration that the Taliban are somewhat reformed from their previous iteration. President Joe Biden seemed to hint at a changing interpretation of the Taliban’s newfound commitment to freedom in his interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday night, but The New York Times report Thursday appears to confirm that little has changed.
“I think they’re going through a sort of existential crisis about: Do they want to be recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government? I’m not sure they do,” Biden said, after being asked about the Taliban’s blitz through Afghanistan — a blitz that American intelligence and security forces claim they did not foresee.
“Taliban militants are intensifying a search for people they believe worked with U.S. and NATO forces, including among the crowds of Afghans at Kabul’s airport, and have threatened to kill or arrest their family members if they cannot find them, according to a confidential United Nations document,” the Times said Thursday. “The document, from a U.N. threat-assessment adviser, directly contradicted the militant group’s public assurances that it would not seek revenge on members and supporters of the toppled government.”
The Times added that the Taliban appear to have a “list of people” that they intend to “question and punish,” and Taliban fighters are going door-to-door “arresting and/or threatening to kill or arrest family members of target individuals unless they surrender themselves to the Taliban.”
The U.N. report contained a letter that instructed “an unnamed counterterrorism official in Afghanistan who had worked with U.S. and British officials” to “report to the Military and Intelligence Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in Kabul. If not, it warned, the official’s family members ‘will be treated based on Shariah law.’”
Although the United Nations has had apparent difficulty responding to the crisis in Afghanistan, they were at the forefront of warning the Biden administration that a swift military withdrawal could have “dire consequences.”
According to the U.N., “Deborah Lyons, Special Representative and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said the ‘possible slide toward dire scenarios is undeniable,’” back in June, and specifically warned of the threat of Taliban fighters regaining strength in southern provinces.
“Most districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn,” the Special Representative said in June. Such a scenario would lead to ‘increased and prolonged violence’ and threaten to destroy much of what has been built and hard-won over the past 20 years.”
That scenario appears to have come to pass.