Taliban Executions of Surrendering Afghan Troops Could Constitute War Crimes—U.S. Embassy

The U.S. embassy in Kabul has said reported killings of surrendering Afghan troops by Taliban forces "could constitute war crimes," as the militants continue to make rapid advances across the country.

"We're hearing additional reports of #Taliban executions of surrendering Afghan troops. Deeply disturbing & could constitute war crimes," the embassy posted on Twitter on Thursday.

Human Rights Watch reported on August 3 that Taliban forces in Ghazni, Kandahar and other provinces had summarily executed detained soldiers and police officers, as well as civilians believed to have ties to the Afghan government. The advocacy group described the killings as "a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime."

On July 14, a video was released showing Taliban forces shooting down members of an Afghan special forces unit. CNN reported that the killings took place on June 16 in the town of Dawlat Abad in Faryab province, close to the border with Turkmenistan.

The footage shows bodies laid out across an outdoor market and at least a dozen men being shot amid cries of "Allahu Akhbar" (God is great).

Newsweek has contacted the U.S. embassy in Kabul for further comment on the killings.

The United States has withdrawn almost all of its troops from Afghanistan, following an American-led military campaign that began in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The last U.S. troops are expected to leave by the end of this month.

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he did not regret the troop withdrawal, but his decision has been met with criticism. The president urged Afghan leaders to fight for their homeland.

The Taliban now controls around two-thirds of Afghanistan by area and its territory has grown quickly as allied forces withdraw. The fighting has resulted in thousands of families being displaced.

As of Thursday morning, 10 of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals had been captured by the militants. Eight were captured in less than a week and the militants are threatening to conquer at least three more. On Thursday morning, the Taliban said it had taken Ghazni city, 150 kilometers southwest of Kabul.

The militant group has also reportedly captured a police headquarters in Lashkar Gah, a key provincial capital in southern Afghanistan. Although the government still holds the capital, the Taliban is making advances there after a suicide car bombing on Wednesday began the targeting of police headquarters.

A U.S. defense official who spoke to Reuters on Wednesday cited U.S. intelligence as saying the Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90 days.

Separately, the Pentagon has conceded that the security situation in the country is "deteriorating."

The fighting has led to many Afghan security personnel fleeing to neighboring Tajikistan.

U.S. Embassy in Kabul
Murals on the walls of the U.S. embassy in Kabul, seen on July 30. Taliban forces are making rapid gains as allied troops withdraw, and now control two-thirds of Afghanistan's territory. Paula Bronstein/Getty