KABUL, Afghanistan — In a protracted battle waged by males, she’s been a uncommon feminine warlord, defending her fief in northern Afghanistan towards the Taliban, her personal kin, and even towards the American-backed central authorities she allied with.
As she grew into her 70s, ailing and bedridden with dangerous knees, the warlord, Bibi Ayesha, took pleasure in having an undefeated document in a long time of battle. She is popularly identified by a nom de guerre: Commander Kaftar, which suggests pigeon in Farsi, “as a result of she moved and killed with the elegance of a chicken,” as one profile put it.
On Thursday, the Taliban declared the tip of her high-flying days: Commander Kaftar, alongside along with her males, had surrendered to them, they stated in an announcement.
“The officers of our Invite and Steering Fee welcomed them,” the assertion stated.
Native officers in restive Baghlan province, the place she relies, and her kin confirmed the commander’s give up and stated it was an act of survival. Her valley was so surrounded, with different neighboring militias already switching sides to the Taliban, that she had no selection.
Mohammad Hanif Kohgadai, a member of Baghlan provincial council representing Commander Kaftar’s district, stated she had reached a deal by way of a Taliban commander associated to her household.
“The Taliban spent the night time at Commander Kaftar’s home, they ate there,” Mr. Khohgadai stated in an interview on Friday. “At present, they left the home and took with them 13 weapons and different army gear.”
One among Commander Kaftar’s sons performed down the episode, saying it was extra a truce than a give up.
“It’s only a rumor. My mom is sick,” stated Raz Mohammad, one in all her three remaining sons. (Three others have been killed in years of combating.) “She hasn’t joined the Taliban. We don’t struggle the Taliban anymore; we have now weapons to guard ourselves from our enemies.”
Commander Kaftar’s give up brings little to the Taliban militarily however is one other propaganda victory towards the struggling Afghan authorities, suggesting that in a bloody, stalemated battle some have been switching sides to the insurgents. The Taliban have more and more reached out to these disenchanted with the Afghan authorities because the nation’s army struggles amid the continuing American withdrawal.
For a bunch that stored ladies confined to their houses after they have been in energy within the Nineties, a Taliban alliance with a feminine commander may show tough. The Taliban has but to offer any detailed positions in ongoing peace talks on the position of ladies in a future authorities. However what makes Commander Kaftar’s shift simpler is that she instructions a whole bunch of males in a deeply conservative and misogynistic society.
The give up exposes a bigger vulnerability of the Afghan authorities: Its defenses are partly reliant on hundreds of unreliable militias with monitor information of abuse and native feuding, and a historical past of switching sides.
President Ashraf Ghani has despatched blended alerts in regards to the militias over time.
When Mr. Ghani got here to workplace in late 2014, he tried aggressively to dismantle the militias. Encountering the president’s wrath, militia commanders merely refused to struggle the Taliban, opening the way in which for the insurgents to march on Kunduz Metropolis.
In recent times, because the Afghan Military and the police have been stretched skinny towards Taliban offensives, Mr. Ghani has accepted the militias as a actuality. Over the summer season, the Afghan president spoke publicly about “investing extra” in some militias as a line of protection.
Commander Kaftar’s expertise speaks to the difficult actuality upon which the American-bankrolled democracy has been constructed — on the legacy of a earlier invasion and years of anarchy and warlord rule.
Her fame started to develop with the killing of Soviet commandos who had swarmed her valley throughout an invasion beginning in 1979. She hasn’t put down arms since, elevating a militia that protected her valley as her little kingdom. Even when the Taliban swept by way of most of Afghanistan within the Nineties, she fended them off.
She has usually recounted how she taunted the Taliban commander for her province with a lose-lose supply: If she arrested him, she would parade him round city on a donkey and folks would chortle at him for being defeated by a girl. And if he arrested her? The city would scold the Taliban commander for arresting a girl.
After the U.S. invasion in 2001, the brand new Afghan authorities moved to disarm militias like hers. She and lots of different militia commanders resisted. Requested in regards to the authorities eager to disarm her, she stated, “If they arrive, you will note what I’ll do to the federal government.”
Even in Kabul she was celebrated as an anti-Taliban hero and inspiration for ladies, with the nation’s former human rights chief attending a celebration of her hosted by Afghanistan’s vice chairman.
“This battle received’t finish in peace — solely God, or this lovely Kalashinkov can clear up it,” she as soon as stated in an interview, the weapon on her lap. “The Taliban usually are not able to change or reform.”
However at the same time as media studies listing 20 of her members of the family misplaced within the battle with the Taliban, a lot of her struggle lately has concerned spiraling household feuds.
A few of these disputes, together with a struggle with one in all her sisters, have dragged on over 20 years with many lifeless on either side. In one other extended feud, she chased a relative out of the valley after deaths on either side, just for the person to return years later as a commander of the Taliban that she has now surrendered to.
The information of Commander Kaftar’s destiny raised questions of whether or not it was the results of a truce between two households, or because it was publicly portrayed: the give up of a militia commander to a Taliban chief. In massive elements of Afghanistan, with the lines of war increasingly blurred, the 2 are the identical.
“Commander Pigeon was an outdated decrepit warlord, a broken-down girl,” the author Jennifer Percy wrote in a 2014 profile in The New Republic. “Lonely, she survived on consideration, on her means to encourage concern by way of the facility of her personal delusion. In Afghanistan, the power to create a mythology is highly effective, perhaps much more highly effective than army prowess.”