Kabul - Threatening letters from the Taliban, once
tantamount to a death sentence, are now being forged and sold to Afghans who
want to start a new life in Europe.
The handwritten notes on the stationery of the so-called
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan were traditionally sent to those alleged to have
worked with Afghan security forces or US-led troops, listing their
"crimes" and warning that a "military commission" would
decide on their punishment.
They would close with the mafia-style caveat that insurgents
"will take no further responsibility for what happens in the future."
But nowadays the Taliban say they have mostly ceased the
practice, while those selling forged threat letters are doing a brisk business
as tens of thousands of Afghans flee to Europe, hoping to claim asylum. Forgers
say a convincing threat letter can go for up to $1 000.
"Of the threat letters now being presented to European
authorities by Afghans, I'd say only one percent are real and 99% are
phony," said Mukhamil, 35, who has forged and sold 20 such letters. Like
many Afghans, he has only one name.
He sticks to a simple formula — accusing the buyer of
working for Afghan or US forces — and adds a Taliban logo copied from their
"To this day I have only ever known one guy who
genuinely got a threat letter from the Taliban. All the rest are fake," he
There is no shortage of customers. With unemployment at 24%
and the insurgency raging across much of the country, the government expects
that 160 000 Afghans will have left by the end of the year, four times the
number of departures in 2013.
Germany is struggling to accommodate hundreds of thousands
of refugees, but has said economic migrants must return to their home
countries. Last month, Germany's top security official complained of an
"unacceptable" influx of Afghans from relatively safe areas of the
country. Germany, a longtime contributor to international forces in
Afghanistan, currently has more than 900 soldiers in the Nato-led training mission
Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees said it
was aware of the letters but that no statistics are kept on them. Spokesperson
Susanne Eikemeier said that since such letters are not official documents, the
weight granted to them is generally limited.
"Such documents are assessed in the context of
examining the credibility of the overall account of the applicant," said
Eikemeier. "While they can be drawn on as evidence of a threat by the
Taliban, the applicant's entire account has to be coherent, comprehensible and
Even the Taliban, who have stepped up their 14-year
insurgency in recent months and spread to new areas, say most of the
threatening letters are forgeries.
‘We don’t send letters, that’s not our style’
Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said that when fighters
suspect someone is working with the government or security forces, they contact
the person's relatives to request that he stop. "We don't send threat
letters, that's not our style. Only very rarely would we use the phone, in
cases where we perceive serious problems," he said.
"All these so-called Taliban threat letters are
fake," he added, reeling off a list of people who he says falsely claimed
to have received threatening letters from the Taliban. "We are trying to
provide a good environment for our youth to remain in their country," he
An official at Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the
National Directorate of Security, also dismissed the letters, saying it was
clear many people were buying them to strengthen their case for asylum. No one
has been arrested in connection with the forgeries.
"The government does not believe it is worth our effort
to go after the people making or buying them. We concentrate our efforts on
people who receive genuine threats," he said.
The official was not authorised to speak to media so spoke
on condition of anonymity.