Thu. Oct 29th, 2020
A Storied Female Warlord Surrenders, Taliban Say, Exposing Afghan Weakness


KABUL, Afghanistan — In a prolonged conflict waged by males, she’s been a uncommon female warlord, defending her fief in northern Afghanistan towards the Taliban, her personal family members, and even towards the American-backed central government she allied with.

As she grew into her 70s, ailing and bedridden with poor knees, the warlord, Bibi Ayesha, took pride in possessing an undefeated record in decades of war. She is popularly identified by a nom de guerre: Commander Kaftar, which indicates pigeon in Farsi, “because she moved and killed with the elegance of a bird,” as a single profile place it.

On Thursday, the Taliban declared the finish of her large-flying days: Commander Kaftar, along with her males, had surrendered to them, they explained in a statement.

“The officials of our Invite and Advice Commission welcomed them,” the statement explained.

Area officials in restive Baghlan province, wherever she is based mostly, and her family members confirmed the commander’s surrender and explained it was an act of survival. Her valley was so surrounded, with other neighboring militias by now switching sides to the Taliban, that she had no decision.

Mohammad Hanif Kohgadai, a member of Baghlan provincial council representing Commander Kaftar’s district, explained she had reached a deal by a Taliban commander connected to her family members.

“The Taliban invested the evening at Commander Kaftar’s home, they ate there,” Mr. Khohgadai explained in an interview on Friday. “Today, they left the home and took with them 13 weapons and other military gear.”

A single of Commander Kaftar’s sons played down the episode, saying it was a lot more a truce than a surrender.

“It is just a rumor. My mom is sick,” explained Raz Mohammad, a single of her 3 remaining sons. (3 some others had been killed in many years of fighting.) “She hasn’t joined the Taliban. We really don’t battle the Taliban any longer we have weapons to defend ourselves from our enemies.”

Commander Kaftar’s surrender brings very little to the Taliban militarily but is a further propaganda victory towards the struggling Afghan government, suggesting that in a bloody, stalemated war some had been switching sides to the insurgents. The Taliban have more and more reached out to these disenchanted with the Afghan government as the country’s military struggles amid the continuing American withdrawal.

For a group that stored females confined to their residences when they had been in energy in the 1990s, a Taliban alliance with a female commander could demonstrate difficult. The Taliban has nonetheless to present any in depth positions in ongoing peace talks on the part of females in a potential government. But what can make Commander Kaftar’s shift simpler is that she commands hundreds of males in a deeply conservative and misogynistic society.

The surrender exposes a bigger vulnerability of the Afghan government: Its defenses are partly reliant on 1000’s of unreliable militias with track information of abuse and neighborhood feuding, and a historical past of switching sides.

President Ashraf Ghani has sent mixed signals about the militias above the many years.

When Mr. Ghani came to workplace in late 2014, he experimented with aggressively to dismantle the militias. Encountering the president’s wrath, militia commanders just refused to battle the Taliban, opening the way for the insurgents to march on Kunduz City.

In current many years, as the Afghan Army and the police have been stretched thin towards Taliban offensives, Mr. Ghani has accepted the militias as a actuality. Above the summer season, the Afghan president spoke publicly about “investing more” in some militias as a line of defense.

Commander Kaftar’s expertise speaks to the complex actuality on which the American-bankrolled democracy has been constructed — on the legacy of a former invasion and many years of anarchy and warlord rule.

Her status started to develop with the killing of Soviet commandos who had swarmed her valley in the course of an invasion beginning in 1979. She hasn’t place down arms considering the fact that, raising a militia that protected her valley as her very little kingdom. Even when the Taliban swept by most of Afghanistan in the 1990s, she fended them off.

She has usually recounted how she taunted the Taliban commander for her province with a reduce-reduce give: If she arrested him, she would parade him close to town on a donkey and men and women would laugh at him for currently being defeated by a female. And if he arrested her? The town would scold the Taliban commander for arresting a female.

Soon after the U.S. invasion in 2001, the new Afghan government moved to disarm militias like hers. She and several other militia commanders resisted. Asked about the government wanting to disarm her, she explained, “If they come, you will see what I will do to the government.”

Even in Kabul she was celebrated as an anti-Taliban hero and inspiration for females, with the country’s former human rights chief attending a celebration of her hosted by Afghanistan’s vice president.

“This war will not finish in peace — only God, or this wonderful Kalashinkov can remedy it,” she after explained in an interview, the weapon on her lap. “The Taliban are not capable of modify or reform.”

But even as media reviews record twenty of her family members members misplaced in the war with the Taliban, a lot of her battle in current many years has concerned spiraling family members feuds.

Some of these disputes, which include a battle with a single of her sisters, have dragged on above two decades with several dead on just about every side. In a further prolonged feud, she chased a relative out of the valley immediately after deaths on each sides, only for the guy to return many years later on as a commander of the Taliban that she has now surrendered to.

The information of Commander Kaftar’s fate raised concerns of irrespective of whether it was the outcome of a truce amongst two households, or as it was publicly portrayed: the surrender of a militia commander to a Taliban leader. In significant elements of Afghanistan, with the lines of war more and more blurred, the two are the similar.

“Commander Pigeon was an outdated decrepit warlord, a broken-down female,” the author Jennifer Percy wrote in a 2014 profile in The New Republic. “Lonely, she survived on consideration, on her means to inspire dread by the energy of her personal myth. In Afghanistan, the means to produce a mythology is impressive, possibly even a lot more impressive than military prowess.”

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