In late February, the Taliban launched a house-to-house search operation called “search and clear” supposedly to address the rising criminalities in Kabul. The search operation is throughout Kabul and also other areas of Afghanistan, especially Kapisa, Parwan, Bamiyan, and Panjshir provinces. Photos and videos on social media show Taliban’s security forces kicking in people’s doors, pointing guns at the residents and beating some of them. Videos also show the Taliban fighters going through people’s closets, chopping up mattresses, digging yards, and destroying furniture. Some describe the search as “ransacking” rather than a search operation looking for criminals.
The house searches have terrorized Afghans, reminding them of the harrowing experiences of the past house searches by the former governments. The Afghan people have been clear about sharing their dismay and photos of chaos created by the Taliban forces on social media. They have been raising their concerns, calling it “violations of privacy,” “intrusive,” and “suppressing dissent” in the name of clearing criminalities. In a tweet, Andreas von Brandt, the European Union’s ambassador to Afghanistan, wrote to the Taliban; “Despite Putin’s war, we are watching you.” He added, “The intimidations, house searches, arrests and violence against members of different ethnic groups and women are crimes and must stop immediately.” In another tweet, Andrew Fox, operations manager for the UK-based Azadi Charity wrote, “The Taliban are sealing off the city district by district and methodically searching every house. Those they seize are being tortured and ransomed. Our WhatsApps are full of horror stories and utterly horrific photos.”
Despite all the footages and witnesses, the Taliban officials have denied these claims. In a news conference, Taliban’s spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said that the operations in Kabul and neighboring cities have been “successful,” and the main goal for these searches was to “collect weapons” and arrest “criminals.” Mujahid added that “over 60,000 rounds of ammunition, 13 armored vehicles, 13 tones of gunpowder and explosives along with rocket launchers and grenades were seized in the raids.” Taliban fighters also announced that they arrested “nine kidnappers, six ISIS members and 53 thieves.”
Despite announcing a general amnesty, since their takeover of power, the Taliban has continued detaining journalists, men and women activists, and people associated with the former government and police forces. The Afghan national security forces under the former republic have remained their big target. Many Afghans have complained that the Taliban are not committed to their blanket amnesty declaration. The house-to-house searches have also caused panic among people who used to work for the previous government and international NGOs, leading them to burn their documents in fear of being harassed or arrested by the Taliban.