How the Taliban silently infiltrated Kabul months ago

How the Taliban silently infiltrated Kabul months ago

Christoph Reuter reports:

In early July, before the great storm broke over Afghanistan, Kabul was already surrounded by the Taliban. And nowhere were the Islamist fighters closer to the Afghan capital city than on the shores of the Qargha Reservoir, a popular getaway on the western edge of the city. People were saying that the Taliban had gathered in the villages behind the nearby hills. The last frontline, it was said, was on the shore of the reservoir at the amusement park.

During the day, families were still taking their children to the rides and the restaurants or going out on the water in swan-shaped paddle boats. A small, six-member special forces unit even enjoyed a picnic in a wooden pavilion on the shore. One of them had to stand guard at the gun turret of their armored Humvee as the rest smoked hookahs and drank colorful sodas.

The next day, I met one of the Taliban’s leading military commanders for Kabul, who received me in the middle of the city in an unremarkable office building. When asked how far the Taliban had to walk to get to the lakeshore, he responded: “Not far at all.” He seemed perfectly calm, a clean-shaven emissary of fear. “They’re already there, after all. They are the security guards at the restaurants, the ride operators, the cleaning staff. When the time is right, the place will be full of Taliban.”

Six weeks after our meeting, in the middle of August, the same man drove to the Presidential Palace along with 10 bodyguards and the senior commander responsible for the conquering of Kabul. He hadn’t lied when he said that his men had already infiltrated the park at the reservoir. What he had failed to mention, though, was that the Taliban were also already in the heart of the city.

Numerous witnesses in various neighborhoods of the capital following the fall of Kabul had similar stories to tell. “It started in April,” says a longtime acquaintance from the western part of the city. “More and more outsiders were suddenly in the neighborhood. Some had beards, others didn’t. Some were well dressed, others wore rags. Completely different. That made them difficult to notice. But all of the locals realized: They aren’t from here.” They had silently infiltrated Kabul. The outsiders also appeared in the northern and eastern parts of the city, telling those who asked that they had come to Kabul for a new job or for business reasons. [Continue reading…]

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