As President Joe Biden withdraws US troops nearly 20 years after the US-led invasion, Afghanistan is facing instability on several fronts: The Taliban are awakening again; Fears of civil war are increasing; and a new threat emerges – Iran’s growing influence.
Those are some of the key takeaways Leave Afghanistan, a special FRONTLINE report premiering Tuesday, July 20, by acclaimed Afghan journalist Najibullah Quraishi, who has covered the war between the Taliban and the American-led coalition from the start.
“I grew up in the war,” says Quraishi in the film. “I’ve seen everything with my own eyes, but this time is always more dangerous than the past.”
Quraishi exposes allegations that an Iranian-backed Afghan militia, the Fatemiyoun Brigade, made up of Afghan Shiite refugees in Iran and members of the Hazara Shia minority living in Afghanistan who fought in Syria, are now on the ground operated in Afghanistan. Some say that the Fatemiyoun is even present within the country’s government and military. The Iranian Foreign Minister said Iran had supported Afghan fighters in Syria, but they are not now active in Afghanistan.
Quraishi gains access to a militant Taliban wing that is fighting against Fatemiyoun members allegedly sent from Tehran. The leader of this Taliban branch promised to kill thousands of Hazara people as a “lesson” for future generations.
And Quraishi explores how the Hazaras, as a Shiite minority in Afghanistan, have long been the target of persecution and attacks by the Sunni Taliban – a drumbeat that has come about both in light of the US withdrawal and the association of some Hazaras with the Fatemiyoun and Iran Shiite power.
In the excerpt above, in a Hazara cemetery, Quraishi meets Nooria, a woman whose husband was killed by the Taliban and left five children behind.
âWe lost the head of the family,â she says. “God brought such a day to these children.”
Quraishi meets another woman, Hamida, who says the Taliban carried out deadly attacks on her community. Her grandson was killed in the fighting.
âWe are poor and have nowhere to go,â says Hamida. “The Taliban are after us and the government does not support us.”
In response, Quraishi reports that some of the Hazaras – like other ethnic groups – are forming militias in hopes of protecting their communities from the advancing Taliban. A senior commander, Abdul Ghani Alipur, claims to have thousands of fighters under his command.
The mobilization of the Hazaras has also brought them into conflict with the Afghan army. When Hazaras demonstrated in Beshud city earlier this year, government forces opened fire on the crowd and killed 11 people.
Quraishi spoke to a mourner at a funeral for Hazaras killed in Beshud.
âPeople will defend themselves. Too much has happened, âsays the man. “People will fight back to the last drop of blood.”
Seven weeks after the attack on Hazara protesters in Beshud, the film says, an Afghan military helicopter was shot down by a missile later identified as being made in Iran. After Alipur announced that his troops had taken revenge, he later denied that his Hazara militia was involved, but an Afghan parliamentary commission confirmed his responsibility. The government has promised to punish those responsible for the attack that killed nine people.
As civil war approaches, Quraishi finds that the only constant is the suffering of the Afghan people.
“Afghanistan is on the verge of a very dangerous civil war,” says Muhammad Mohaqiq, the Hazara spiritual leader and member of the Afghan parliament, Quraishi in the film. âI am in favor of a responsible NATO withdrawal, but leaving a situation in which everyone is fighting against each other is not right. You should only leave if peace and security are guaranteed in Afghanistan. “
You can find the whole story under Leave Afghanistan, Part one of a one-hour FRONTLINE broadcast on Tuesday, July 20, with. ends India’s rape scandal. With Quraishi as a correspondent, Leaving Afghanistan Directed by Jamie Doran. Both Leave Afghanistan and India’s rape scandal will be seen in full under pbs.org/frontline and in the PBS video app from Tuesday, July 20 at 7 / 6c. The hour will be premiered on PBS channels (check local entries) and further Youtube at 10 / 9c.