MOSCOW (Sputnik), Tommy Yang – As the world was shocked by the lightning speed at which the Taliban* took over Afghanistan last week, a police officer in the northwestern Herat province shared details with Sputnik on how inadequate support from the central government in Kabul made his efforts to defend his district fall apart quickly.
Khaled Hassanzada, a 29-year-old police officer from the Injil district of the Herat province, became increasingly worried last week, as neighbouring districts fell one after another into the hands of the Taliban, which had been attacking the region for two weeks.
“The Injil district is close to the city. They [the Taliban] took the control of all districts and the last one was Injil district. We were ready to defend, but we had no support from central government,” Hassanzada said in a phone interview.
When he tried to contact the central government in Kabul to request more weapons and manpower to defend his district, Hassanzada received no answer.
“We really needed weapons and soldiers but the central government didn’t arrange for them. We called for help and they [the central government] didn’t reply. They had time [to help us prepare the defence], but they didn’t want to defend. I think it’s a betrayal from the central government,” he said.
Last Stand Against the Taliban
When about 600 Taliban soldiers riding in cars and motorcycles attacked his district around 3 p.m. last Thursday, Hassanzada decided to take a last stand to defend his home with fellow police officers and other local forces. But with the kind of manpower and weapons available, Hassanzada and his fellow officers did not stand a chance.
“We had only 70 soldiers and used Kalashnikov [assault rifles] as our weapons. The Taliban had M4 and M16 [assault refiles], and they even had snipers with night vision goggles,” he said.
As a result, the battle against the Taliban in the Injil district only lasted about two hours.
“We fought for two hours. We tried to defend our district. But after 20 soldiers from us and 8 Taliban fighters were killed, they [the Taliban] took control of the district. They took control in a very short time,” Hassanzada said.
After his district fell to the Taliban, Hassanzada went home to hide and then found a chance to drive a car with his pregnant wife to flee toward the capital city of Kabul.
“I came [to Kabul] by car with my wife. On the way, the Taliban didn’t recognise us,” he said.
Hassanzada and his wife arrived in Kabul on Thursday night last week.
© AFP 2021 / NICHOLAS GUEVARA
This handout photo courtesy of US Marines Corps shows evacuees stage before boarding a C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 18, 2021
Reprisal From Taliban For Police Work
However, Kabul was only a safe haven for Hassanzada and his wife for less than three days, as the Taliban took over the city on Sunday, and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
The Afghan police officer was shocked by what he witnessed and blamed Ghani for betraying his country.
“I’m surprised about what happened to our country. Taliban took the control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, without anyone defending it. Our president escaped and left Afghanistan. I think he betrayed the country. I’m shocked!” Hassanzada said.
Speaking from exile in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, the Afghan president argued that he had fled the country to avoid bloodshed in Kabul.
But for people like Hassanzada who served as police officers or held other official positions in the Afghan government, the reprisal from the Taliban could be equally deadly.
“I arrested big criminals during my duty [as a police officer] and the Taliban released all the prisoners in all the provinces of Afghanistan. I’ve fought against the Taliban for many years. But now, we are in danger. Maybe they [the Taliban] will kill us as soon as they have the chance,” Hassanzada said.
Hassanzada explained that he had worked as the director of the investigation department of the Afghan police in the Herat province for the last 10 years. During his tenure, he captured many kidnappers, rapists and robbers.
The Afghan police officer believes the life of his wife is also in danger because she worked with a lot of Western non-governmental organisations including Handicap International, Oxfam and World Vision.
Like other Afghans who worry about reprisal from the Taliban for working with the United States, Hassanzada believes fleeing his country is the only way to keep his family and himself safe.
“Please take me out of this country. I’m in grave danger and need help,” he said.
Hassanzada said he took a short training course for police officers in Russia in 2018 and showed Sputnik a picture of him when he studied in Moscow. He said he would be really grateful if the Russian government can offer him some assistance to escape from Afghanistan.
*Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia.