Afghanistan army collapse was a ‘surprise’ says Lloyd Austin

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Barely a month after the US pullout, the harrowing pictures, shared by Mawlawi Shir Ahmad Muhajir, deputy governor of Herat province, purportedly show three men he said were killed by another man when they entered his home in Obe district. In the pictures, all three are shown being hosted in the air by their necks from the raised arms of two diggers, while people on the ground below watch and take photographs.

[WARNING: THE FOLLOWING STORY CONTAINS IMAGES SOME READERS MAY FIND UPSETTING]

The shocking public display has fuelled concern that the Taliban is returning to the barbaric approach which they adopted when they were in charge of the country between 1996 and 2001, despite the insistence of senior figures speaking the wake of the US withdrawal that they had “evolved”.

Separately, Amnesty International has accused the Taliban of killing 13 ethnic Hazaras, 11 of whom were soldiers who had surrendered, together with two civilians, including a 17-year-old girl.

The killings happened in Kahor village in the Khidir district on 30 August 30, one day before the last US troops left the country, Amnesty claimed.

Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “These cold-blooded executions are further proof that the Taliban are committing the same horrific abuses they were notorious for during their previous rule of Afghanistan.

“They repeatedly violate the rights of those they perceive as their adversaries, even killing those who have already surrendered.”

She added: “The Taliban say they are not targeting former employees of the previous government, but these killings contradict such claims.

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“The Taliban must immediately cease these cruel acts of revenge, and ensure employees of the former government and their families can live safely in Afghanistan.

“The new government must make clear that such grave violations will not be tolerated, and that those responsible will be prosecuted.”

Dr Martin Longden, Charge d’Affaires of the UK Mission to Afghanistan in Doha, yesterday defended his decision to travel to Afghanistan with the Prime Minister’s High Representative for Afghan Transition, Sir Simon Gass, to hold talks with senior members of the Taliban.

He tweeted: “It’s early days and, unsurprisingly, there are points of difference between us.

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“But such difficult challenges lie ahead for Afghanistan (and beyond), it’s right to test if we can engage pragmatically and find common ground – in the interests of both the UK and Afghan peoples.”

Earlier, a UK Government spokesman said: “Sir Simon and Dr Longden discussed how the UK could help Afghanistan to address the humanitarian crisis, the importance of preventing the country from becoming an incubator for terrorism, and the need for continued safe passage for those who want to leave the country.

They added: “They also raised the treatment of minorities and the rights of women and girls.

“The Government continues to do all it can to ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave and is committed to supporting the people of Afghanistan.”

Former British soldier Ben Slater, who was arrested by the Taliban while trying to evacuate hundreds of Afghans from the country, is also understood to have been released and left the country with the UK delegation.

A statement posted on Twitter that appeared to be from a Taliban foreign affairs spokesman said: “The meeting focused on detailed discussions about reviving diplomatic relations between both countries, assurance of security by IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) for all citizens entering legally, and humanitarian assistance by UK for the Afghans.”

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference yesterday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned the UK military withdrawal from Afghanistan showed the connection of global events, providing opportunities for China and Islamist terrorists.

He explained: “It is all interconnected and Afghanistan matters.

“Who popped up immediately as the US and Nato were leaving, but China, offering to invest in Afghanistan?

“That was about securing land routes to ports such as Karachi and also into Pakistan.

“It is all connected. The ripples from Afghanistan will be felt by al-Shabaab in Somalia, and of course, al-Shabaab pose a threat to British interests in Kenya and to our friends in Kenya.

“The ripples of another superpower being portrayed as defeated by Islamic terrorism will be felt across the world.”

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