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A Storied Feminine Warlord Surrenders, Taliban Say, Exposing Afghan Weak point

KABUL, Afghanistan — In an extended battle waged by males, she’s been a uncommon feminine warlord, defending her fief in northern Afghanistan in opposition to the Taliban, her personal family, and even in opposition to the American-backed central authorities she allied with.

As she grew into her 70s, ailing and bedridden with unhealthy knees, the warlord, Bibi Ayesha, took satisfaction in having an undefeated report in many years of struggle. She is popularly recognized by a nom de guerre: Commander Kaftar, which suggests pigeon in Farsi, “as a result of she moved and killed with the class of a hen,” as one profile put it.

On Thursday, the Taliban declared the top of her high-flying days: Commander Kaftar, alongside along with her males, had surrendered to them, they mentioned in an announcement.

“The officers of our Invite and Steering Fee welcomed them,” the assertion mentioned.

Native officers in restive Baghlan province, the place she is predicated, and her family confirmed the commander’s give up and mentioned 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 alternative.

Mohammad Hanif Kohgadai, a member of Baghlan provincial council representing Commander Kaftar’s district, mentioned she had reached a deal by means of a Taliban commander associated to her household.

“The Taliban spent the night time at Commander Kaftar’s home, they ate there,” Mr. Khohgadai mentioned in an interview on Friday. “In the present day, they left the home and took with them 13 weapons and different army gear.”

Considered one of 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,” mentioned Raz Mohammad, considered one of her three remaining sons. (Three others had been killed in years of preventing.) “She hasn’t joined the Taliban. We don’t struggle the Taliban anymore; now we have weapons to guard ourselves from our enemies.”

Commander Kaftar’s give up brings little to the Taliban militarily however is one other propaganda victory in opposition to the struggling Afghan authorities, suggesting that in a bloody, stalemated struggle some had 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 persevering with American withdrawal.

For a bunch that saved girls confined to their properties once they had been in energy within the 1990s, a Taliban alliance with a feminine commander may show tough. The Taliban has but to supply any detailed positions in ongoing peace talks on the function of ladies in a future authorities. However what makes Commander Kaftar’s shift simpler is that she instructions lots of 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 1000’s of unreliable militias with observe data 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 best way for the insurgents to march on Kunduz Metropolis.

In recent times, because the Afghan Military and the police have been stretched skinny in opposition to Taliban offensives, Mr. Ghani has accepted the militias as a actuality. Over the summer time, 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 means of most of Afghanistan within the 1990s, she fended them off.

She has typically 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 giggle 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 plenty of different militia commanders resisted. Requested in regards to the authorities eager to disarm her, she mentioned, “If they arrive, you will notice what I’ll do to the federal government.”

Even in Kabul she was celebrated as an anti-Taliban hero and inspiration for girls, with the nation’s former human rights chief attending a celebration of her hosted by Afghanistan’s vice chairman.

“This struggle gained’t finish in peace — solely God, or this lovely Kalashinkov can resolve it,” she as soon as mentioned in an interview, the weapon on her lap. “The Taliban are usually not able to change or reform.”

However at the same time as media reviews record 20 of her members of the family misplaced within the struggle with the Taliban, a lot of her struggle lately has concerned spiraling household feuds.

A few of these disputes, together with a struggle with considered one of her sisters, have dragged on over 20 years with many lifeless on both sides. 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 components of Afghanistan, with the strains of struggle more and more blurred, the 2 are the identical.

“Commander Pigeon was an previous decrepit warlord, a broken-down lady,” the author Jennifer Percy wrote in a 2014 profile in The New Republic. “Lonely, she survived on consideration, on her potential to encourage worry by means of the ability of her personal fable. In Afghanistan, the power to create a mythology is highly effective, possibly much more highly effective than army prowess.”

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