Afghanistan: Ex-soldiers in hiding as ‘general amnesty’ fails them

Wazhma’s husband was a police officer but was forced to flee Afghanistan in fear of reprisals by the Taliban when the group seized control of the country in August 2021. Her husband fled alone, leaving his wife and five children behind.

Wazhma said her husband graduated from Kabul Police Academy in 2005 and worked in various departments of the former Afghan interior ministry until the Taliban takeover of the country.

“Today, my family and I have shelter. I live in a friend’s home with my five children. The Taliban are looking for my husband and he was forced to leave the country. I don’t know what his crime was, and why he has to hide [from the Taliban],” she said.

Criticizing the international community for not taking any action against the Taliban, Wazhma stated that there is no “general amnesty” by the group and the world is silent against the arbitrary arrests and summary killings of former soldiers.

Wazhma and her children at their home in Kabul.

“What is the world waiting for? Why don’t they do anything for the [former] military personnel? For what crime must my children go hungry and thirsty for?” she asked, adding “I don’t know how long our horrible life will last.”

We live in hiding for fear of our lives

Faisal, a former soldier who worked for the army for 15 years, stated that he is dealing with many challenges – the fear of detention by the Taliban, unemployment, and financial problems – all of which have put pressure on him, he said.

Faisal has four children and his wife is suffering from heart disease. “This winter we had no food to eat and no fuel to warm up our home. All the Taliban forces get paid” while we live in hiding, he said.

This comes as former Afghan military forces – consisting of 300,000 personnel – were dissolved following the collapse of the former government. Some managed to flee the country while many others live in hiding. Some have been arrested or even killed by Taliban fighters.

My children go to bed hungry

Qasim, another former Afghan soldier, said that he served in the ranks of the former defense forces for 10 years.

Qasim, 29, has four children. “I served in the army all these years, and now we don’t even have food [to eat]. We live in a rented house and my children go to sleep hungry at night,” he said.

The former soldier noted that he was tortured several times by the Taliban because he used to serve in former Afghan military forces.

“No one hears our voice and I don’t know how to move forward with my life. I have a psychological problem due to anxiety,” Qasim said.

For these soldiers, fear of the Taliban is very real. Despite a general amnesty that was imposed straight after the group seized control, there have been a growing number of reports indicating that former security forces members have been arrested, tortured and even killed.

The former security forces also raised their voices about detention, revenge, and torture by the Taliban, stating that they have been humiliated and insulted by the group, but they cannot speak out regarding the issue as they would face repercussions.

Many of them have sought refuge in neighboring countries – including Iran and Pakistan – because they were worried about their lives and the lives of their family members. While others who stayed in the country live in hiding.