Soldier’s Day: Hardships for former Afghan forces in exile

On Soldier’s Day, numerous ex-members of Afghanistan’s security and defense forces, now refugees in neighboring countries and Europe following the Taliban’s seizure of power, reported severe hardships.

Disregarded by former authorities and compelled into laborious work, they express a longing to return home but are deterred by the threat of Taliban retribution.

These individuals urge the United Nations to facilitate nationwide peace in Afghanistan, enabling their safe return to aid in the country’s security. Zabihullah, a former Afghan commando with twelve years of service, sought refuge in Iran post-Taliban takeover. He now faces significant challenges abroad and fears Taliban vengeance upon return, appealing to the UN for assistance in ensuring a peaceful repatriation.

“Afghanistan needs its young, educated, and professional forces,” Zabihullah stated. He calls for the global community to engage in meaningful discussions with the Taliban to halt revenge acts and promote inclusive governance.

The commemoration of Soldier’s Day, established seven years ago to honor security and defense personnel, coincides with criticisms against the Taliban’s alleged failure to honor amnesty promises, with reports of torture and execution of former forces. Bilal Ghafouri, another ex-soldier now in Iran, highlighted the risks of deportation for many like him lacking legal documentation.

At the peak of international support, Afghanistan’s military and intelligence forces numbered 350,000, backed chiefly by the U.S. and NATO. Yet, the Taliban’s ascendancy on August 15 led to their disbandment, leaving many in uncertain conditions or forced to flee.

Ex-service members like Khairullah appeal to UN Secretary-General António Guterres for intervention to alleviate their plight. As they commemorate Soldier’s Day from afar, human rights groups have accused the Taliban of arresting, imprisoning, and executing thousands of former government soldiers, allegations the Taliban denies.