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Afghan Crime Wave Adds to Taliban Dystopia

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As economic collapse and humanitarian catastrophe stalk Afghanistan, a spike in serious crime and concerns about civil unrest are adding pressure on a population facing a Himalayan winter and already struggling with rising prices, vanishing cash, and unemployment.

Reports are emerging of families selling baby girls to raise money to buy food as poverty and hunger bite deeper and law and order breaks down further. Sources in the capital, Kabul, said kidnappings and extortion are daily occurrences, with Taliban foot soldiers killing on contract to earn cash as they are not being paid.

“It’s $2,000 to kidnap someone and $5,000 to kill someone,” said a former Afghan security official who is closely monitoring the crime wave.

As economic collapse and humanitarian catastrophe stalk Afghanistan, a spike in serious crime and concerns about civil unrest are adding pressure on a population facing a Himalayan winter and already struggling with rising prices, vanishing cash, and unemployment.

Reports are emerging of families selling baby girls to raise money to buy food as poverty and hunger bite deeper and law and order breaks down further. Sources in the capital, Kabul, said kidnappings and extortion are daily occurrences, with Taliban foot soldiers killing on contract to earn cash as they are not being paid.

“It’s $2,000 to kidnap someone and $5,000 to kill someone,” said a former Afghan security official who is closely monitoring the crime wave.

“Crime and poverty are excruciatingly high. The Taliban are not out to stop it, and it’s not that they can’t contain the crime—they are part of it,” he said, speaking on the condition that he not be named. “The rank and file are too poor and corrupt; they can’t get money any other way. It’s just like the warlords in the 1990s.”

Kabul residents said gangs roam the streets, stopping, searching, and robbing people at random. They say armed men routinely stop cars and rob the occupants.

“They seem to be very professional, also young, uneducated, and unemployed,” said another former Afghan government official, now in hiding. “Nothing here is in order. Life is not properly normal. Kabul is a lost and dead city.”

Officials of the former government, intelligence service, and military have been snatched from their homes after applying for passports and providing biometric and other identification information, he said.

The Taliban are also using lists of former officials and civil activists to pinpoint their children. “They took four such sons from a prominent school in Kabul. When the police station was asked, they said, ‘We don’t know who entered the school,’” the source said. “Life is broken.”

Another Kabul resident said the father of an associate was kidnapped and a ransom of $3 million demanded for his release. “But no one has that sort of money; they couldn’t pay, and he was killed,” he said. Cars are being stolen almost daily from homes in previously safe neighborhoods, he added.

Local media have reported more than 40 kidnappings of businessmen in the two months since the Taliban took control. Other sources have said the number is much higher, though the lack of a functioning bureaucracy means there are paltry official statistics. The bulk of the kidnappings occured in Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Kunduz, Herat, and Balk provinces, the deputy head of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries told Tolo News.

The crime wave adds to myriad other woes for the Afghan population. Unemployment has skyrocketed, and people are largely unable to get cash from banks. The World Bank has stopped funding development and aid projects. The United Nations and the European Union are struggling to distribute food and medicine. Borders are closed, curtailing imports even further.

Food and fuel prices have roughly doubled since the Taliban takeover, and both are expected to get pricier as winter sets in. The Afghan currency has lost value against the U.S. dollar—from a nominal rate of 80 afghanis to the dollar before the takeover to about 91 afghanis today. But it’s moot: There are no dollars to be had.

With few jobs and no money, even paying for housing is becoming a problem.

“Eviction is also going to be an issue as most people live in rented homes and can no longer afford to pay rent,” said a former official of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, speaking on condition of anonymity. Many families already live in makeshift camps in and around big cities after fleeing violence.

The Taliban, with a government made up of former fighters and sanctioned terrorists with little to no experience of governing, has proved unable to cope with any of the economic challenges, let alone the deteriorating security situation. Partly that’s due to infighting, with different Taliban factions jostling for control of Kabul while also trying to prevent the defection of foot soldiers to the local branch of the Islamic State. But the group’s inability to tame the crime wave risks sparking civil unrest as the population reaches a breaking point.

“The Taliban leadership can’t deliver services, including security, as a government because they are more focused on internal power struggles,” said Waliullah Rahmani, a longtime Afghan analyst. “That is why people have grown frustrated and this situation needs just a small spark to change to unrest.”

Ironically, a tough line on crime was one of the few, if brutal, high spots of the Taliban’s last regime, which ruled the country from 1996 to 2001. The Taliban dealt with thieves by cutting off their hands and with murderers by public execution.

While there have been some gruesome displays of rough justice for alleged criminals—including the killing of two suspected kidnappers whose corpses were publicly displayed in Herat city—this time around, the Taliban themselves seem a big part of the problem.

This is not a CAPTIS article. Originally, it was published here.