Kabul: Taliban has taken over the opulent villa of one of their fiercest enemies – the fugitive ex-vice president and warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Now in the hands of rank and file Taliban fighters, the Glitzy Mansion has given the hardline Islamists a peek into the lives of Afghanistan’s former rulers, and they say the luxury is the proceeds of years of endemic corruption.
The new regime in Afghan had installed a company of 150 men in the mansion on August 15, the day Kabul fell. The luxury of the mansion would be unimaginable for most ordinary Afghans. Huge glass chandeliers hang in cavernous halls, large soft sofas furnish a maze of lounges and an indoor swimming pool is finished with intricate turquoise tiles.
It is an out of this world experience for the new occupants, who for years sacrificed creature comforts for rebellion – living on their wits in the plains, valleys and mountains of rural Afghanistan.
But the new head of the household – now the military commander of four provinces – makes it clear his men will not get used to the luxury.
“Islam never wants us to have a luxurious life,” Ayoubi told media, adding luxury comes in paradise, “the life after death”.
The mansion’s owner, Dostum, is a notorious figure woven into the fabric of Afghanistan’s recent history. A former paratrooper, communist commander, warlord and vice president, he was the very definition of a cunning political survivor who weathered over four decades of conflict in war-torn Afghanistan.
Despite a series of war crimes linked to Dostum’s forces, the former Afghan government hoped his military acumen and seething hatred of the Taliban would help them survive.
But his stronghold was overrun and the greying 67-year-old fled across the border to Uzbekistan.
Dostum is widely suspected to have hugely profited from the corruption and embezzlement that discredited the former government. In 2001, he was accused of killing more than 2,000 fighters – locking many in containers in the middle of the desert where they suffocated under a scorching sun.
Several officials illegally took land to build luxurious mansions in one neighbourhood, earning it the nickname “Thieves’ Quarter” among locals.
In one wing of the enormous house, Taliban fighters relaxed in a massive tropical greenhouse of several hundred square metres under a huge glass roof.
The Taliban’s resurgence has created an acute humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan alongside terrible human rights abuses. Amid the chaos, the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has accused the US of leaving behind a “mess”.
And yet, while many may criticise US President Joe Biden for pulling forces out, there is little likelihood, given all these regional forces at work, that the US could ever have achieved stability in Afghanistan – no matter how long it stayed.