Afghanistan and China, NATO, Russia

Taliban Russia
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov flanked by Taliban officials attending a conference on Afghanistan, Moscow, November 2018

Afghanistan is now a hot issue among the world powers. China has talked to NATO while Russian Foreign Minister has said about a common approach by U.S., China, Russia and Pakistan.

Media reports said:

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has held a virtual meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, amid longstanding disagreements between Beijing and the U.S.-led alliance over regional policies.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the discussions had been “positive and constructive”. Wang Yi and Jens Stoltenberg had spoken the previous day, according to the statement, focusing on “issues of common concern.”

Chinese officials gave no further details of the talks.

Beijing long opposed the presence of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan while benefiting from the relative stability that presence provided. It has been strongly critical of the shambolic U.S. withdrawal that paved the way for the Taliban sweeping to power, calling it hasty and irresponsible.

Beijing said the two officials speaking Monday agreed to “raise the standard of dialogue to advance practical cooperation” between China and NATO on issues including counterterrorism, anti-piracy, cyber security and international peacekeeping.

Stoltenberg told China’s foreign minister that the alliance “went into Afghanistan to ensure the country did not serve again as a platform for terrorists,” according to NATO’s press release Monday, adding that no attacks against China or alliance members had been organized from the country since 2001.

Stoltenberg also stressed in the meeting the importance of a “coordinated international approach, including with countries from the region, to hold the Taliban accountable for their commitments on countering terrorism and upholding human rights, not least the rights of women.”

China has kept open its embassy in Kabul and maintained dialogue with the Taliban group.

At that meeting, Wang referred to the Taliban as “a pivotal military and political force in Afghanistan” that is “expected to play an important role in the in process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction.”

Beijing has also called on the Taliban to uphold its pledge to restrain militants seeking independence for the traditionally Muslim northwestern region of Xinjiang. Wang has urged the group to keep border crossings open, while offering $31 million in humanitarian assistance, along with 3 million doses of Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines.

Apart from calls to fight terrorism, China has said virtually nothing about the Taliban’s approach to human and women’s rights. It has condemned foreign intervention in the country and has shown little enthusiasm for establishing a major economic presence.

While pledging cooperation with NATO, Wang criticized the dispatch of planes and ships from member states to areas near China’s borders, saying “the Asia-Pacific region does not need new military groups, nor should it involve a confrontation between great powers, even less a small circle designed to incite a new Cold War.”

Stoltenberg said the alliance “does not see China as an adversary, but called on China to uphold its international commitments and act responsibly in the international system,” the NATO news release said.

Russia is in sync with U.S., China, Pakistan on Taliban

Russia, China, Pakistan and the U.S. are working together to ensure that Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers keep their promises, especially to form a genuinely representative government and prevent extremism from spreading, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday.

Lavrov said the four countries are in ongoing contact. He said representatives from Russia, China and Pakistan recently traveled to Qatar and then to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to engage with both the Taliban and representatives of “secular authorities” — former president Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, who headed the ousted government’s negotiating council with the Taliban.

Lavrov said the interim government announced by the Taliban does not reflect “the whole gamut of Afghan society — ethno-religious and political forces — so we are engaging in contacts. They are ongoing.”

The Taliban have promised an inclusive government, a more moderate form of Islamic rule than when they last ruled the country from 1996 to 2001 including respecting women’s rights, providing stability after 20 years of war, fighting terrorism and extremism and stopping militants from using their territory to launch attacks. But recent moves suggest they may be returning to more repressive policies, particularly toward women and girls.

“What is most important … is to ensure that the promises that they have proclaimed publicly to be kept,” Lavrov said. “And for us, that is the top priority.”

At a wide-ranging news conference and in his speech afterward at the UN General Assembly, Lavrov criticized the Biden administration including for its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He said the U.S. and NATO pullout “was carried out without any consideration of the consequences … that there are many weapons left in Afghanistan.” It remains critical, he said, that such weapons are not used for “destructive purposes.”

Later, in his assembly speech, Lavrov accused the U.S. and its Western allies of “persistent attempts to diminish the UN’s role in resolving the key problems of today or to sideline it or to make it a malleable tool for promoting someone’s selfish interests.”


As examples, Lavrov said Germany and France recently announced the creation of an Alliance For Multilateralism “even though what kind of structure could be more multilateral than the United Nations?”


The U.S. is also sidestepping the UN, he said, pointing to the recent U.S. announcement of a “Summit for Democracy” despite, Lavrov said U.S. President Joe Biden’s pledge this week “that the U.S. is not seeking a world divided into opposing blocs.”

Spirit of Cold War

“It goes without saying that Washington is going to choose the participants by itself, thus hijacking the right to decide to what degree a country meets the standards of democracy,” Lavrov said. “Essentially, this initiative is quite in the spirit of a Cold War, as it declares a new ideological crusade against all dissenters.”

U.S. and China

Lavrov was asked for Russia’s reaction to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ warning last week that the world could be plunged into a new Cold War potentially more dangerous than the lengthy one between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union unless the U.S. and China repair their “totally dysfunctional” relation.

He replied: “Of course, we see the tension tightening in relations between China and the United States.” He expressed “great concern” at the rising tensions, pointing to the Biden administration’s recently proclaimed Indo-Pacific strategy — whose objectives, he said, include “deterring China’s development,” disputes over the South China Sea, and the recent U.S.-Britain deal to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

More broadly, Lavrov said, relations among the big powers must be “respectful.” He emphasized that Russia was “keen to ensure that never will these relations morph into nuclear war.”

The major powers have a “great responsibility,” he said, to negotiate and make compromises on the critical issues facing the world and that Russia is now “revitalizing” its proposal for a summit of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Russia, China, U.S., UK and France. He said discussions are under way on specific questions for an agenda, and “we may perhaps begin with an online meeting.”


On other global issues, the U.S. has been pressing for Iran to resume nuclear negotiations, but Lavrov said it was then-U.S. president Donald Trump who pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement, so to declare that “time is running out, anybody could say this — but not Washington.”

Lavrov said Russia would like to see the resumption of negotiations to restore the original agreement as soon as possible. “We have a very serious hope — and I think this is well-founded optimism — that we will achieve results,” he said, because “this is something everybody wants.”

Italy says Taliban Government Cannot be Recognized, but Afghans must be Helped

Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Sunday that the Taliban government in Afghanistan could not be recognized, but urged foreign governments to prevent a financial collapse there that would spark massive flows of migrants.

Italy holds the annual, rotating presidency of the G20 and is looking to host a special summit on Afghanistan.

“Recognition of the Taliban government is impossible since there are 17 terrorists among the ministers, and the human rights of women and girls are continuously violated,” Di Maio, who chaired a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in New York last week, told state-owned television Rai 3.

However, the Afghan people should start receiving the financial support that was frozen after the Taliban took power last month, he said.

“In a while they will not be able to pay salaries. Clearly, we must prevent Afghanistan from implosion and from an uncontrolled flow of migration that could destabilize neighboring countries,” Di Maio said.

“There are ways to guarantee financial support without giving money to the Taliban. We have also agreed that a part of humanitarian aid must always go to the protection of women and girls.”

The G20 countries together with Afghanistan’s neighbors are committed to fight against terrorism, and to work for the protection of human rights, Di Maio said.

Asked whether a date has been set for G20 leaders to meet on Afghanistan, Di Maio said that it will be “in the coming weeks”.

“The date is not yet public but conditions are in place to convene the summit of the G20 leaders, who will be chaired by Prime Minister Mario Draghi,” he said.

Afghan Bank Sector near Collapse

Afghanistan’s banking system is near to collapse, the boss of one of the nation’s biggest lenders has said.

Syed Moosa Kaleem Al-Falahi, the Chief Executive of the Islamic Bank of Afghanistan, said the country’s financial industry is in the grip of an “existential crisis” as customers panic.

“There are huge withdrawals happening at the moment”, he said, speaking from Dubai, where he is temporarily based because of the chaos in Kabul.

“Only withdrawals are happening, most of the banks are not functioning, and not providing full services,” he added.

Afghanistan is hugely dependent on foreign aid – about 40% of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from international aid, according to the World Bank.

But since the Taliban takeover, the West has frozen international funds, including assets Afghanistan could have accessed with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Al Falahi says this is encouraging the Taliban to look for other sources of financial support.

“They are looking forward to China and Russia, and some other countries as well.

“…it seems that sooner or later, they will be successful in dialogue,” he said.

China has already talked about its desire to help rebuild Afghanistan, and work with the Taliban.

Still, the Taliban is under pressure to fix Afghanistan’s economic problems now.

Inflation is soaring, the Afghani, the country’s currency, is plummeting and people are desperate as many have lost their jobs and are short of cash.

The United Nations World Food Programme has warned that only 5% of households in Afghanistan have enough to eat every day.

Half of those surveyed said they have run out of food altogether at least once in the last two weeks.

So accessing international funds and foreign assistance is key to Afghanistan’s survival.

But countries like the U.S. have said that while they are willing to consider working with the Taliban – it will depend on some pre-conditions – including the regime’s treatment of women and minorities.

Al Falahi insists that despite statements from the Taliban that women are not allowed to work for “a while”, women in his bank are returning to work.

“There was sort of… fear among the women, they were not coming to the offices, but now gradually they started coming to the office,” he said.

Al Falahi comments also chimed with recent statements by the Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a BBC interview Imran Khan said the Taliban are trying to show a more modern and reformed face to the world, in comparison to how they behaved the last time they were in power – a sort of Taliban 2.0.

“At the moment, they are more flexible, they are very cooperative.

“They are not imposing any strict rules and regulations for the time being,” Mr Khan said.

However, women’s groups and human rights organizations have pointed to a huge difference between what the Taliban have said and the reality on the ground, with reports of many women and girls now not being allowed to go to school or work.

Afghanistan Healthcare on ‘Brink of Collapse’: WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke in Geneva on Thursday after a visit to Afghanistan.

He said that cases of polio in infants, which was close to be eradicated in the country, could make reappearance.

The UN urged the world earlier this month to raise $606 million for Afghanistan, where poverty and hunger are spiraling since the Taliban took power, and foreign aid has dried up.

Female Afghan Judges Hunted by the Murderers They Convicted

They were the trailblazers of women’s rights in Afghanistan. They were the staunch defenders of the law, seeking justice for their country’s most marginalized. But now, more than 220 female Afghan judges are in hiding due to fear of retribution under Taliban rule. Six former female judges spoke to the BBC from secret locations across Afghanistan. All of their names have been changed for their safety.

Throughout her career as a judge, Masooma has convicted hundreds of men for violence against women, including rape, murder and torture.

But just days after the Taliban took control of her city and thousands of convicted criminals were released from prison, the death threats began.

Text messages, voice notes and unknown numbers began bombarding her phone.

“It was midnight when we heard the Taliban had freed all the prisoners from jail,” says Masooma.

“Immediately we fled. We left our home and everything behind.”

In the past 20 years, 270 women have sat as judges in Afghanistan. As some of the most powerful and prominent women in the country, they are known public figures.

“Travelling by car out of the city, I wore a burka, so no-one would recognize me. Fortunately, we made it past all the Taliban checkpoints.”

Shortly after they left, her neighbors texted her to say several members of the Taliban had arrived at her old house.

Masooma says that as soon as they described the men, she knew who was looking for her.

Several months ago, prior to the Taliban takeover, Masooma was ruling over a case investigating a member of the group for brutally murdering his wife.

Upon finding him guilty, Masooma sentenced the man to 20 years in prison.

“I can still see the image of that young woman in my mind. It was a brutal crime,” says Masooma.

“After the case was over, the criminal approached me and said: ‘When I get out of prison, I will do to you what I did to my wife.’

“At the time I did not take him seriously. But since the Taliban took power, he has called me many times and said he has taken all of my information from the court offices.

“He told me: ‘I will find you and have my revenge.'”

Speaking to six former judges from different provinces, their testimonies of the past five weeks were almost identical.

All have received death threats from members of the Taliban whom they previously committed to prison. Four named specific men whom they sentenced for murdering their wives.

All have changed their phone number at least once due to receiving death threats.

They are all currently living in hiding, moving locations every few days.

They all also said their former homes had been visited by members of the Taliban. Their neighbors and friends reported being questioned as to their whereabouts.

In response to the accusations, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi told the BBC: “Female judges should live like any other family without fear. No-one should threaten them. Our special military units are obliged to investigate such complaints and act if there is a violation.”

He also repeated the Taliban’s promise of a “general amnesty” for all former government workers across Afghanistan: “Our general amnesty is sincere. But if some wish to file a case to leave the country, our request is that they do not do this and they stay in their country.”

With regards to the security of female judges, Karimi also said: “In the case of drug traffickers, mafia members, our intention is to destroy them. Our action against them will be serious.”

As highly educated women, these judges were previously the main breadwinner for their families. But now, with their salaries stopped and their bank accounts frozen, they have all been reduced to living off hand-outs from their relatives.

For more than three decades, Judge Sanaa investigated cases of violence against women and children.

She says the majority of her cases involved convicting members of the Taliban as well as militant group Isis.

“I have received more than 20 threatening phone calls from former inmates who have now been released.”

She is currently in hiding with more than a dozen family members.

Only once has one of her male relatives returned to their former family home. But as he was packing some clothes, the Taliban arrived at the house in several cars full of armed men, led by a commander.

“I opened the door. They asked me whether this was the judge’s house,” he says. “When I said I did not know where she was, they threw me on the stairs. One of them hit me with the butt of his gun and started beating me. My nose and mouth were covered in blood.”

After the armed men left, Sanaa’s relative took himself to hospital.

“I told another relative we must keep changing the house where my sister is staying. There is no other way out now. We can’t escape to any other country, even Pakistan.”

Fighting for Women’s Rights

For decades, Afghanistan has continued to rank as one of the hardest countries in the world. According to Human Rights Watch, an estimated 87% of women and girls will experience abuse during their lifetime.

But this community of judges, by working to uphold the country’s former laws which aimed to support women, have helped to advocate for the idea that violence against women and girls is a punishable criminal offence.

This includes charging individuals in cases of rape, torture, forced marriage, as well as in cases where women were prohibited from owning property or going to work or school.

As some of the most prominent female public figures in their country, all six say they have faced harassment throughout their careers, long before the Taliban took full control.

“I wanted to serve my country, that is why I became a judge,” says Asma, speaking from a safe house.

“In the family affairs court, I dealt mostly with cases involving women who wanted a divorce or separation from members of the Taliban.

“This posed a real threat to us. Once, the Taliban even launched rockets at the court.

“We also lost one of our best friends and judges. She disappeared on her way home from work. Only later was her body discovered.”

No-one was ever charged for the disappeared judge’s murder. At the time, local Taliban leaders denied any involvement.

How draconian Afghanistan’s new leadership will be regarding women’s rights is still yet to fully unfold. But so far the outlook is grim.

An all-male acting cabinet with no appointment to oversee women’s affairs has already been announced, while in schools, the education ministry has ordered male teachers and pupils go back to work, but not female staff or students.

On behalf of the Taliban, Karimi said he could not yet comment on whether there would be roles for female judges in the future: “The working conditions and opportunities for women are still being discussed.”

All six judges say they are currently looking for a way out – but not only do they lack access to funds, they say not all members of their immediate families have passports.

Former Afghan judge Marzia Babakarkhail, who now lives in the UK, has been advocating for the urgent evacuation of all former female judges.

She says it is important not to forget those living in Afghanistan’s most rural provinces far from the country’s capital, Kabul.

“It breaks my heart when I receive a call from one of the judges from the villages saying: ‘Marzia, what should we do? Where should we go? We will be in our graves soon.’

“There is still some access to the media and the internet in Kabul. The judges there still have some voice, but in the rural provinces, they have nothing.”

“Many of these judges do not have a passport or the correct paperwork to apply to leave. But they cannot be forgotten. They are also in grave danger.”

Several countries, including New Zealand and the UK, have said they will offer some support. But when this help will arrive or how many judges it will include is yet to be confirmed.

Judge Masooma says she fears such promises of help will not arrive in time.

“Sometimes I think, what is our crime? Being educated? Trying to help women and punish criminals?

“I love my country. But now I am a prisoner. We have no money. We cannot leave the house.

“I look at my young son and I don’t know how to explain to him why he can’t talk to other children or play out in the hall. He’s already traumatized.

“I can only pray for the day when we will be free again.”

With Afghan Women

Thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Italy on Saturday to support Afghan women and demand continued international pressure on the country’s Taliban leaders to let women participate in the educational and political life of the country.

Among the groups organizing the protests were members of the Pangea Foundation, which had worked for 20 years on economic development projects for Afghan women before finding itself helping to evacuate them when the Taliban took over.

At the protest, Pangea supporters had a P drawn on their hand. It was the same P that Afghan women wrote on their hands to be recognized at the Kabul airport and evacuated during the chaotic weeks as Western nations ended their military missions.

“We must continue to put pressure so that women can participate not only in education but also in the politics of their country,” Simona Lanzoni, vice president of Pangea, said during the Rome protest. “And then we must continue perhaps the humanitarian evacuations in a specific way, thinking first of all of those women who were not able to enter the airport in August but today are really risking in Afghanistan.”

The event with the slogan “#Nonlasciamolesole” (“Let’s not abandon them”) brought thousands out in several Italian cities, where speakers called for a permanent observatory on women’s rights in Afghanistan at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and at the United Nations.

To Protect Afghan Girls, UN Panel Urges Conditions on Aid

Aid to Afghanistan should be made conditional to ensure the protection of women’s rights and access to education under the rule of the Taliban government, a panel of high-level speakers said at the UN on Friday.

The UN says 4.2 million children are not enrolled in school in Afghanistan, and 60% of them girls.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that “by and large, we are very concerned” about measures restricting girls’ access to education since the Taliban took control of the country.

“I think the international community here, first and foremost, has to draw on the expertise, on the leadership of Afghan women… to stop the reversal, to remain in school,” she said in the UN panel that focused on ways to support girls’ education in Afghanistan. The virtual discussion took place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Mohammed said aid to Afghanistan can “absolutely” be made conditional on education for girls and women. She said the UN and the international community can help ensure Afghanistan’s economy does not collapse and that educators and health care workers continue to be paid.

“This is where we have to really have resolve that recognition comes with your ability to be part of a global family that has a certain set of values and rights that must be adhered to,” she said. “Education is up front and center, especially for girls and for women.”

This month, U.N. donors pledged more than $1.2 billion in emergency assistance to help provide a lifeline to Afghanistan.

The executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, said such aid gives the UN some leverage in tackling both the “humanitarian emergency” and the emerging “human rights emergency” in Afghanistan. UNICEF is responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children.

The first revelation of the Quran that came to the Prophet Muhammad was ”iqra,” which means “read”, said Fawzia Koofi, first woman deputy speaker of parliament in Afghanistan. She spoke on the panel from Qatar.

“To the international community… my message would be to emphasize on girls’ return to school,” Koofi said. She asked participants to realize that an Afghanistan that is oppressing more than half its population cannot be a reliable partner in the world.

Activist Malala Yousafzai, who serves as a UN “messenger of peace,” said the world cannot make compromises on the protection of women’s rights. Yousafzai was shot in the head on her way home from school as a teenager in 2012 by a Taliban gunman in Pakistan’s Swat Valley for her campaigning for girls’ education.

The Taliban’s “atrocities are countless,” she said. “My worry is that this will continue in Afghanistan. My worry is that the same situation will repeat all over again.”

Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary-general, noted the Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Khadija, was a successful businesswoman whom he supported in her business — an observation she said can be used by countries in the region to show that “you are not outside of Islam, you’re not outside of the preachings of the Quran, when we promote the rights of women and girls.”

Taliban Banned Barbers from Cutting Beards in Part of Afghanistan, Saying it is against Islam

The Taliban has barred some barbers from cutting people’s beards in one province of Afghanistan, and said people who violate the rule will be punished.

A notice was put on salons in the Helmand province to alert people of the new rule, and some barbers in Kabul said they were given similar rules.

“No one has a right to complain,” said the notice posted outside hair salons in Helmand province.

The Taliban said that shaving or cutting beards violates their interpretation of Islamic law.

The Taliban are known for brutal punishments, including hand amputation and execution. One of their founders said last week they would bring those punishments back.

One barber told that the new rule makes it too difficult to run his business.

“For many years my salon was somewhere for young people to shave as their wish and look trendy,” he said. “There is no point continuing this business.”

Another barber told that customers had stopped asking for beard cuts: “Customers do not shave their beards [because] they do not want to be targeted by the Taliban fighters in the streets. They want to blend in and look like them.”

An Afghanistan army cadet who spoke to Insider about his fear of being targeted by the Taliban said that he was afraid of being identified as he has shorter hair and little facial hair: “They can easily recognize us as cadets.”

The Taliban are claiming their edict on beard is in line with Shariah, or Islamic, law.

The order in Helmand province was issued Monday by the provincial Taliban government’s vice and virtue department to barbers in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.

“Since I have heard (about the ban on trimming beards) I am heartbroken,” said Bilal Ahmad, a Lashkar Gah resident. “This is the city and everyone follows a way of living, so they have to be left alone to do whatever they want.”

It was not immediately clear what penalties the barbers could face if they don’t adhere to the no shaving or trimming rule.

During the Taliban’s previous rule, the conservative Islamists demanded that men grow beards. Since being ousted from power following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, many men have opted for no or cleanly trimmed beards.

Barbershop owner Jalaluddin, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, said he hoped the Taliban would reconsider their demands.

“I request our Taliban brothers to give freedom to people to live the way they want, if they want to trim their beard or hair,” he said. “Now we have few clients coming to us, they are scared, they do not want to trim their hair or beards, so I request them let people free, so we have our business and people can freely come to us.”

Another barbershop owner, Sher Afzal, also said the decree hurts the bottom line. “If someone comes for a haircut, they will come back to us after 40 to 45 days, so it is affecting our business like any other businesses,” he said.

Some barbers in the capital Kabul have said they also received similar orders.

The instructions suggest a return to the strict rulings of the group’s past tenure in power, despite promises of a milder form of government.

“The fighters keep coming and ordering us to stop trimming beards,” one barber in Kabul said. “One of them told me they can send undercover inspectors to catch us.”

Another hairdresser, who runs one of the city’s biggest salons, said he received a call from someone claiming to be a government official. They instructed him to “stop following American styles” and not to shave or trim anyone’s beard.

Many Afghan barbers say their business has dried up

But the barbers, who have not been named to protect their safety, say the new rules are making it hard for them to make a living.

“For many years my salon was somewhere for young people to shave as their wish and look trendy,” one told. “There is no point continuing this business.”

“Fashion salons and barbers are becoming forbidden businesses,” another said. “This was my job for 15 years and I don’t think I can continue.”

Another barber in Herat said that although he had not received an official order, he had stopped offering beard trims.

“Customers do not shave their beards [because] they do not want to be targeted by the Taliban fighters in the streets. They want to blend in and look like them.”

Despite slashing his prices for a cut, his business has dried up. “Nobody cares about their style or hair fashion,” he said.

Taliban Hang Body in Public; Signal Return to Past Tactics

The Taliban hanged a dead body from a crane parked in a city square in Afghanistan on Saturday in a gruesome display that signaled the hard-line movement’s return to some of its brutal tactics of the past.

Taliban officials initially brought four bodies to the central square in the western city of Herat, then moved three of them to other parts of the city for public display, said Wazir Ahmad Seddiqi, who runs a pharmacy on the edge of the square.

Taliban officials announced that the four were caught taking part in a kidnapping earlier Saturday and were killed by police, Seddiqi said. Ziaulhaq Jalali, a Taliban-appointed district police chief in Herat, said later that Taliban members rescued a father and son who had been abducted by four kidnappers after an exchange of gunfire. He said a Taliban fighter and a civilian were wounded by the kidnappers, and that the kidnappers were killed in crossfire.

An Associated Press video showed crowds gathering around the crane and peering up at the body as some men chanted.

“The aim of this action is to alert all criminals that they are not safe,” a Taliban commander who did not identify himself told the AP in an on-camera interview conducted in the square.

Since the Taliban overran Kabul on Aug. 15 and seized control of the country, Afghans and the world have been watching to see whether they will re-create their harsh rule of the late 1990s, which included public stonings and limb amputations of alleged criminals, some of which took place in front of large crowds at a stadium.

The Taliban’s leaders remain entrenched in a deeply conservative, hard-line worldview, even if they are embracing technological changes, such as video and mobile phones.

Also Saturday, a roadside bomb hit a Taliban car in the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, wounding at least one person, a Taliban official said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Islamic State group affiliate, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan, has said it was behind similar attacks in Jalalabad last week that killed 12 people.

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