Taliban militants in Ghor province reportedly dragged Afghan Fazl Ahmad out of his house, bore out his eyes, exposed his still-beating heart by skinning him alive, and then threw him off a ten story cliff in December 2015.
Local officials said the barbaric act, featured in a recently surfaced video, was a form of tribal punishment against one of Ahmad’s distant relatives who allegedly killed a former Taliban commander. The Taliban denied any involvement in the crime only after video of the brutal murder surfaced.
Afghan officials told the Washington Post the war in Afghanistan is increasingly becoming more brutal. Afghanistan is no stranger to brutality, having suffered through a devastating Soviet invasion in the 1980’s, ultra-religious Taliban rule in the 1990’s, and violent civil war since the U.S. invasion in 2001.
However this latest turn to extreme public brutality mimics the brutal tactics employed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which have surpassed the Taliban in media following. The increased media following has forced the Taliban to compete with ISIS for recruits.
In August 2015, ISIS’s Afghan affiliate debuted online by forcing 10 prisoners to kneel on top of landmines and then promoting the video. They have continued to maintain a robust presence online featuring beheading videos that their counterparts often promote in Syria and Iraq. Since that time, they have expanded significantly by seizing Taliban territory and reportedly paying the highest salaries of any terrorist group in Afghanistan.
Younger Taliban commanders are increasingly independent in the wake of a fracturing Taliban movement. The Taliban have had a series of leadership crises since the announcement of longtime leader Mullah Omar’s death in summer 2015.
His successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, was briefly in power before being killed by a U.S. drone strike on May 23. Prior to his death he dealt with numerous rebel Taliban commanders who refused to recognize his legitimacy. At the time of his death, a rival Taliban faction had declared independence from his leadership and continues to operate in northwest Afghanistan.
Mullah Mansour’s successor, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, vowed to continue fighting against the Afghan government as long as it was supported by NATO and the U.S. Violence continues to spread to provinces, like Ghor, with little history of brutality furthering fears the U.S. backed government will be unable to secure the country without foreign assistance.
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