The brand new Taliban police chief in Kandahar winks with a steely face when he mentions that he fought “head to head” with the Canadians on the Panjwaii entrance.
“They got here right here to invade Afghanistan, they destroyed villages, carried out night time assaults with American assist,” stated Abdul Ghafar Mohammadi, a former Taliban commander within the Panjwaii district west of Kandahar Metropolis.
Mohammadi now holds the best legislation enforcement publish within the expanded province of Kandahar, the place the Canadian armed forces fought bitterly towards the Taliban throughout their 13-year mission in Afghanistan.
“Our expectations for Canadians, in the event that they need to assist Kandahar, they need to ship humanitarian support,” he stated.
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Throughout a half-hour interview with CBC Information at Kandahar Police Headquarters – which was constructed by the US – Mohammadi methodically solutions questions. However he would not have a look at the journalist sitting in entrance of him.
CLOCK | A return to Kandahar underneath the management of the Taliban:
His media advisor, who speaks fluent Pashto and English, breaks in repeatedly and coaches him on factors for the worldwide press.
“You have been in Kandahar – you’ll be able to see the safety, how quiet it’s,” stated Mohammadi, repeating a declare by the Taliban that safety within the nation had already improved underneath his regime.
However simply 48 hours later, a strong suicide assault tore right into a Shiite mosque and killed 47 individuals, the most important assault in Kandahar in years. ISIS-Okay – a militant group that could be a sworn enemy of the Taliban – has taken accountability.
“When the Taliban got here, we did not suppose such incidents would occur in Kandahar,” stated the mosque’s imam, Sardian Mohammad Zaidi.
A brazen request for assist
Mohammadi is tasked with rebuilding the Kandahar police power after most of their former officers fled for worry of violent reprisals in mid-August when the Taliban took management of the area.
Its mission can be to persuade former enemies to revive the overseas support that has sustained Afghanistan for the previous 20 years. In keeping with the World Financial institution, 43 p.c of Afghanistan’s GDP got here from growth support and about 75 p.c of public spending was funded by overseas grants.
“We do not need to have unhealthy relations with any nation,” stated Mohammadi.
“Our door is open,” he stated. “We would like a very good relationship with the worldwide group as a result of we would like these nations to assist the Afghans rebuild.”
However through the interview, he additionally accused Canadian and different worldwide forces of “crimes” in Kandahar through the Afghan battle.
Two months after the Taliban invaded Kandahar province – a part of their march in the direction of Kabul and the ultimate collapse of Afghanistan – CBC Information returned to Panjwaii.
Situated 30 kilometers west of Kandahar Metropolis, with its dusty vineyards and muddy fields, Panjwaii is the place the place dozens of Canadian troopers fought and died.
The Taliban have been concentrated in Kandahar within the mid-Nineties and made their final stand there in 2001 earlier than falling to the US-led forces. Help for the Taliban went underground through the battle, however remained sturdy within the area – and elsewhere in Afghanistan.
The Panjwaii District Heart, established in 2009 with Canadian assist, is now the district headquarters of the Taliban, a sort of municipal workplace.
Subsequent door, a former navy operations heart has been deserted. New Afghan uniforms come out of half-opened cardboard bins. A helmet lies within the mud. The final troopers of the Afghan authorities have been displaced right here in mid-July when the Taliban got here to energy.
The brand new district chief Syfe Rahman Syfe holds court docket behind a desk within the district workplace, guarded by fighters with AK-47s and flanked by elders who’re lined up towards a wall and hearken to CBCs questions. He adopted a tone just like Mohammadi and requested his former enemies for assist.
“The Panjwaii individuals have suffered vastly from the battle and the drought,” stated Syfe. He stated he was arrested by the US and imprisoned for 3 years within the infamous US jail at Bagram Airfield.
“With the assistance of Allah our God, we are going to supply good safety if you happen to convey assist to individuals. And you may return to your homeland with out struggling.”
When Panjwaii fell to the Taliban in mid-July, Canada’s appearing protection chief had a lieutenant normal. Wayne Eyre gave a message to the Canadian Armed Forces.
“The Panjwaii case hit many people notably exhausting,” he wrote. “Whereas historical past would be the final verdict, the present growth of the nation leaves us with a lot ache and doubt.”
Recalling the 158 Canadian troopers killed in Afghanistan, Syfe stated, “Simply as you suffered from the Afghan battle, we suffered too,” adopted by a warning: “Sooner or later, don’t assault our nation, our nation; use it no drones on our land. ”
“There isn’t any safety risk,” he claimed. “The one drawback we have now is that the worldwide group would not acknowledge Afghanistan.”
Not one of the Western nations that fought the Taliban, together with Canada, acknowledged the brand new regime.
Then he sends one in all his guards to trip with us – “we will assure your security” – as we go deeper into the neighborhood.
Help for the Taliban
Panjwaii suffers. A number of years of drought have ruined crops and the area wants faculties and roads, stated Syfe – the identical sort of growth Canadian forces needed to construct throughout their mission right here.
Within the close by Panjwaii Bazaar, a strip of retailers alongside the primary avenue, shopkeeper Abdul Bari remembers the Canadians who have been on patrol after which boasts of the Taliban’s success.
“The mujahideen have positioned some IEDs,” he stated. “They usually ran away.”
IEDs have been the Taliban’s weapon of alternative, hidden underneath streets and in passages, with some Canadian troopers killing and maiming.
A number of the easy, paved roads that the Panjwaii space nonetheless advantages from have been constructed by Canadian and U.S. forces to reduce the risk from IEDs and enhance farmers’ entry to their markets.
Villagers who spoke to CBC Information stated they hoped the Taliban flag would fly endlessly, but in addition remembered the Canadians’ presence and their departure in 2011.
“Canadians have been good individuals,” stated one man. “After they realized that their mission was towards the Afghan individuals, they left our nation, which was good.”
‘How can I be glad?’
Half an hour away, alongside a furrowed, dusty street that winds between mud huts and former outposts of the Afghan Nationwide Safety Forces, we attain the final entrance line final summer time within the battle between the Taliban and the ANSF.
A 75-year-old girl who is barely launched as Babuo sits in a household compound surrounded by seven grandchildren. She is glad the battle is over, she stated, however then begins to cry.
One in all her sons was a Taliban fighter and was killed in an air strike throughout the previous few weeks of the battle, she stated.
“They introduced the useless physique again to me. It was tortured.”
Babuo strokes his hand on the kids who’re seated round her.
“How can I be glad? I misplaced my beloved son. I’m with all his kids, my grandchildren – what ought to I do with them now? ”
The Taliban received their battle in Panjwaii, however their issues are as ingrained as ever. It’s now your job to resolve it.