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Taliban’s False Amnesty: The Fate of Former Military Officers Who Return to Afghanistan

By Ali Taimikasha for Etilaat Roz | Translated by Maisam Iltaf

The Taliban’s sweeping takeover of Afghanistan in mid-August 2021 following the collapse of the Western-backed Republican government prompted tens of thousands of desperate people to flee the country in a bid to safety, including members of Afghanistan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF).

While the West has taken thousands of former military and police forces since 2021, large numbers of them remain stranded in neighboring Iran and Pakistan in limbo.

Although revenge killings of the members of the former security forces, including those who surrendered, were already on the rise in the weeks before the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, it culminated when the group gripped total power after the US and NATO forces completely withdrew from Afghanistan on August 30, 2021.

Despite a proclaimed amnesty and pledges to take action against those Taliban members for breaches, the group continues to carry out a violent campaign against former military and police forces, including targeting their family members, in what appear to be war crimes according to human rights watchdog. Mounting evidence suggests that this violent campaign is becoming the basis for a deliberate policy to identify and target former ANDSF members.

A Human Rights Watch report showed that in the three months since their takeover, Taliban forces killed or forcibly disappeared more than 100 former security force members and those who worked with international troops in just four provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, and Kunduz. However, the pattern of Taliban retaliation goes beyond this and involves arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, abduction, and other ill-treatment.

Ever since human rights organizations and media outlets have to a limited extent documented the Taliban’s relentless atrocities against members of former security forces. Nevertheless, a string of challenges remain to provide comprehensive accounts of human rights violations of the ex-military and police forces at the hands of the Taliban; that include, lack of access to ground information as a result of Taliban’s severe restrictions, and fear of Taliban intimidation and abuse, among other things.

The Etilaatroz and KabulNow offer special reports to reflect the narratives and stories of the members of the former security forces to highlight the grim realities of their lives under and beyond Taliban rule.

In March 2022, the Taliban formed the Commission of Liaison and Repatriation of Afghan Personalities (Commission) to negotiate with high-ranking ex-officials and top military officials to return to the country, promising them safety and protection. The returnees are provided with “immunity cards” to ensure they would not be detained because of their past jobs. Some have to obtain the cards upon their return, making it extremely difficult to receive them because the Taliban have not announced specific registration centers and access to the Commission remains hard to reach.

The Commission is led by Shahabuddin Delawar, Taliban’s Minister of Mines and Petroleum, and involves six other senior Taliban military and intelligence members, namely Amir Khan Muttaqi, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Muhammad Khalid Hanafi, Minister of Promoting Vice and Preventing Virtue; Mullah Khair Allah KhairKhawa, Minister of Information and Culture; Abdul Haq Wasiq, Director of Intelligence; and Muhammad Anas Haqqani, brother of Taliban’s Minister of Interior, Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Since its inception, the Commission has managed to liaise with a number of former officials, including top military and police officials, to return to the country. While a number of them have agreed to return, many fearful of the Taliban’s “false promises” decided to not.

However, questions remain on how effective the Commission has been to provide “amnesty” and “protection”. What happens to those former military and police officials who return?

Generally, two groups within the former military apparatus have returned as a result of the Commission’s negotiations: 1) Top ex-senior military officials, and 2) former middle-rank military forces.

Return of Top Ex-Senior Military Officials

A number of top senior military officials under the former Republican government have returned to Afghanistan following security assurances given as part of the Taliban’s Commission to woo back high-profile individuals. While many have received a warm reception from Taliban officials upon their return, some have borne a cold welcome and others have been living in fear and uncertainty.

The Taliban, however, have gained good use of each high-profile returnee by filming them at Kabul airport and then propogating their videos on social media as promo, or lauding their hamper to the West. Most of the returnees later turn pro-Taliban, advocating their ideology and calling for global recognition. Some perceive these returns as a declaration of allegiance to the Taliban.

Dawlat Waziri, the former spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense of Afghanistan

One of those returnees is Dawlat Waziri, a former Defense Ministry spokesperson, who, to the Taliban’s delight, claimed the group’s presence as “encouraging” and “positive” on his return to Kabul in June 2022. The Taliban did not shy away from embracing Waziri, who was an outspoken opponent of the group under the former administration. He formerly viewed the Taliban as “enemies of Afghanistan” and called the group “terrorists”. Nonetheless, Waziri had overnight turned into a Taliban sympathizer as he enjoyed appearing in public events held by the group.

Waziri, now retired, reportedly managed to resettle his entire family outside the country taking advantage of the US-led withdrawal in August 2021. But he returned himself in an offer to “legitimize” and “whitewash” the Taliban’s slaughter of thousands of former security forces whom he was supposed to represent. For Waziri, who might never allow his children to live under Taliban rule, it is the Taliban’s ideology and ethnic affiliation that come with relish and, the Taliban for that, has provided him with protection, privilege, and prestige as long as he espouses their causes.

Those returnees, who the Taliban deem rather dubious, are nothing but a photo opportunity for the group to further their propaganda.

Nearly two years since seizing power, the Taliban have defied domestic and international calls to form an inclusive government, appointing a male-dominated and Pashtun-centric de facto government. The group has not been officially recognized by a foreign government and mounting pressures to win favor for international recognition has not worked.

However, dozens of high-ranking military officials have returned to the country in recent months. Below are the 17 high-ranking returnees so far, including Dawlat Waziri.

NameFormer RankEthnicity
Dawlat WaziriPolice Cooperative Director, Ministry of Interior (retired)Pashtun
Najibullah SarterDeputy chief of the Afghanistan National Police in KabulPashtun
Ghulam Sakhi RoghlewanaiChief of Local Police in LogarPashtun
Jannat Gul OryakhelCommander of the Police Training Center in KabulPashtun
Mohammad Anwar KohistaniPolice Cooperative Director, Ministry of Interior (retiured)Tajik
Abdul Hakim NoorzaiDeputy Head of the National Security CouncilPashtun
Mohammad Uddin JalandariHead of Security for Marshal Fahim, former Vice PresidentTajik
Mohibullah SafiMilitary Officer (retired)Pashtun
Ahmad Rashid TotakhelHead of the Prisons Regulatory AuthorityPashtun
Abdul Salam BakhshiDirector General of PrisonsTajik
Mohammad Hassan KarokhelChief of 201 Selab Military CorpsPashtun
Ghulam Bahlol MalikzaiDeputy Head of Logistics Department, Ministry of InteriorPashtun
Hayatullah RostazadaHead of National Directorate Security in Bamyan (retired)Hazara
Abdul Waseh AhmadzaiHead of National Directorate Security in Khost (retired)Pashtun
Sayed Kamal SadatHead of Criminal Investigation, Ministry of Interior (retired)Pashtun
Abdul Baqi NuristaniPolice Chief in NuristanNuristani
Mohammad Raziq SiddiqiDeputy Director of Protection and Security for Governments, Ministry of InteriorUzbek

My investigation into the current situation of these officials shows that some of them have grown into pro-Taliban advocates and lobbyists while others were only used as a publicity stunt. For the Taliban, these returnees are distinguished based on personal alignment and ethnic affiliation, hence violating the Commission’s charter that pledges to protect all military commanders, army, intelligence, police, air force, and local police personnel and people who have returned to their normal lives at the behest of the Commission.

“I returned to Afghanistan through the Taliban’s Commission. Before my arrival, Taliban authorities made several promises, but I was treated like an enemy once I arrived at the Kabul airport. When I was instantly recognized because my photo and details had been shared by the Taliban on social media, Taliban agents briefly detained me at the airport. I showed them my immunity card, but they denied it.” A former military returnee accounted to me.

I was promised a protocol upon my return by the Taliban authorities. But not only did they provide it, they also insulted and humiliated me at the airport.

This returnee added that his home in Kabul, where he lives now, was raided by Taliban forces several times, his appeal for justice has not been answered, and his bank account has been shut.

Return of Mid-ranking Military Officers

Other than high-ranking military officials, the Taliban’s media wings also post the return of mid-ranking and young members of the security forces to further their PR campaign. I spoke to a few of them to understand their side of the story and their current security situation.

An ex-military officer at the Ministry of Interior, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told me that he regrets returning and has been unsuccessful to flee the country. He accounted for harrowing details of life under the Taliban despite vowed protection.

When he returned to Kabul, his photo and details were already announced by the Taliban on Twitter. Soon after his arrival, he was taken to a Taliban detention center where he was interrogated and kept for two days. Later, he was released before signing a forced pledge to never commit to anti-Taliban activities.

Following his release, he had been asked to visit the department where he previously worked to register his details and clear any debts if had been holding. Despite assuring that he did not have any debt, he was later summoned by the Taliban intelligence.

Moreover, this ex-military officer had to bribe Taliban officials 50,000 Afghani (nearly $600) to be able to obtain the Commission’s immunity card.

“Taliban agents summoned my family several times to their intelligence directorate in Kabul to interrogate them,” the ex-officer lamented. “They asked for weapons and ammunition because I worked in the military. They set forth two conditions: whether my family surrender weapons or pay a fine.”

The ex-officer highlighted that the Taliban had closed down his bank account for that reason, curtailing his access to retain his savings.

When the circumstances became unbearable for him, he fled the country.

Another former police officer, who had returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban’s Commission negotiated his comeback, narrated a similar concern.

“I arrived in the country by crossing the Islam Qala border [in the western Herat province]. I had to go through a biometric registration, but fortunately, my identity was not disclosed. I returned to Kabul and I had to bribe the Taliban officials to get an immunity card. I requested an official job, but I was denied.” The police officer told me.

He said, “I consequently decided to flee the country. When I was registering for biometrics at the Passport Department, my identity was revealed and I was referred to Taliban’s intelligence office. I was insulted and ridiculed by Taliban employees at the office who called me a “servant and agent of the infidels”.

He added, “Since I had not taken the Commission’s immunity card that day, the Taliban forces confiscated my phone after apprehending me without acknowledging my family about my location. Although I protested that I had returned upon the Commission’s invitation, they refused to hand over my phone. After spending three days in detention, I was allowed to talk to my family over the phone. When my family brought the immunity card, I was released, not until I signed a forced pledge to never involve in any anti-Taliban activities.”

Since life was getting worse for him in Kabul, this ex-police officer moved to a remote province where he lives with his family and works as a security guard for a marketplace.

These accounts further testify to the Taliban authority’s violation of the Commission’s charter of Article 7 which indicates, “Every individual who returns to the country is provided a special immunity card that guarantees the person’s rights to safety and protection as a citizen of the country.”

However, many former members of the security forces are now skeptical of these promises of the Taliban’s Commission, saying it would only apply to a handful of high-profile ex-officials who have close personal connections with the influential Taliban figures. For many in the lower-to-middle level ranks, the Commission’s screenings mean to identify them to detain and torture them or summarily execute or forcibly disappear them within days of their registration, leaving their bodies for their relatives or communities to discover.

Summary Executions and Forced Disappearances

Many of the former government military forces who were left behind during the US-led withdrawal were forced to flee to neighboring Iran and Pakistan and Turkey. However, these countries have set forth restrictive measures against refugees from Afghanistan and a tightening border curtailment, compelling hundreds to return or risk being deported.

Their return to the country exposes them to the Taliban’s violent campaign to target ex-military officers.

Salahuddin Sattar, a former military officer who hailed from Takhar province, had fled to take refuge in Iran following the Taliban takeover. Recently, he was deported to Afghanistan from Iran. Taliban’s border guards had identified him when he was screened via a biometric device in the Nimruz border and forcibly disappeared by Taliban agents and since remains unknown. The news of Sattar’s disappearance promptly went viral on social media.

Nonetheless, scores of other ex-military officers, particularly those in the lower ranks, have disappeared in silence, whose news never reached their family members or media.

Mohammad Nasir, who was deported by Iranian authorities via the Islam Qala border, revealed to me that the Iranian intelligence registers those refugees who face deportation, recording their personal information and background. And before these refugees are deported to Afghanistan, they share their details with the Taliban intelligence stationed at the border areas.

“Therefore, Taliban agents at the borders have already the details of those being deported to the country. Every individual has to go through biometric screening, and those whom the Taliban deem “unforgivable” or a “threat” are singled out and moved to a separate location.” Nasir narrated.

At first, I didn’t know why are some people separated. But I later found that they were identified as former military forces and thus singled out.


When I curiously asked Nasir about the fate of those being singled out, he replied that he did not know it either. He could only remember that those separated were taken to a presumably Taliban intelligence office.

Since the fate and whereabouts of those identified and singled out at the border areas go under-reported, one could only guess that they were eventually detained, forcibly disappeared, or executed by the Taliban authorities because of their role in the previous government.

In another instance, Bakhtiar, a former police officer from Paktia province, had fled Taliban retribution and resettled in Pakistan with his family. He was detained by the Taliban agents at the Chaman-Spin Boldak border area and taken to an unknown location.

Sources at the border areas told me that the Taliban authorities have located several teams of intelligence officers at the border areas who are responsible for identifying and detaining former members of security forces.

Mohammad Qasim, a resident of Ghazni province, told me that his cousin, who was deported from Turkey, was asked by Taliban forces at the Kabul airport to fill a form, detailing his personal information and residential address. Three days later, he was apprehended by Taliban agents from the PD 13 area in Kabul city and his family remains ill-informed about his fate and whereabouts.

Qasim confirmed to me that his cousin had served in the former military in Ghazni city. Following the Taliban takeover, he fled to Iran and from there took an illegal route to enter Turkey. However, he was detained by Turkish authorities and deported to Afghanistan.

In late March, Taliban forces killed Shabir Ahmad, a former employee of the former intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, in Parwan province. Ahmad had escaped to Iran fearing Taliban reprisal, but he was deported to the country after being arrested by Iranian police.

On July 6, Lal Mohammad Gharibzada, a former local police commander in Balkh’s Charbolak district, was killed by unknown assailants on Mazar-i-Sharif—Charbolak route. He had returned to the country on the Commission’s invitation and held an immunity card. However, at least three sources confirmed to me that Gharibzada was killed by forces loyal to a Taliban commander in the province, Mawlawi Qudratulalh, alias Abu Hamza.

These are the harrowing accounts of the fate of a handful of former members of security forces most of whom had returned to the country following the invitation of Taliban’s Commission of Liaison and Repatriation of Afghan Personalities. They had been pledged the rights to safety and protection by Taliban authorities, but little did they realize to be doomed to the false promises of peace and life in dignity. This comes amid mounting concerns over arbitrary arrests, summary executions, or forced disappearances of those affiliated with the previous government. Hundreds of former military and police officers continue to be deported by neighboring countries to Afghanistan only to remain at the mercy of Taliban forces.

The international human rights groups, particularly the UN Human Rights Council, must robustly and consistently document human rights violations under the Taliban including carrying out robust monitoring, investigations, and public reporting. Unless the international community takes decisive and efficient actions and shows the will to pressurize the Taliban to prevent arbitrary arrests, summary executions, enforced disappearances, and other abuses of the former members of the security forces, the group’s atrocities will likely continue with impunity.