(CNN) — In crisp but shaky video, the words “Surrender, commandos, surrender.” Several men come out of a building; they are clearly unarmed.
Shots are fired. At least a dozen men are found shot to death amid shouts of “Allahu Akhbar” (God is great).
The victims were members of an Afghan special forces unit: their executioners, the Taliban. The summary killings took place on June 16, in the town of Dawlat Abad, in Faryab province, near Afghanistan’s border with Turkmenistan.
CNN has obtained and verified several videos of the incident and has spoken with witnesses.
The videos show the bodies of the commando members strewn around an open-air market. After a fierce battle to hold the city, the military had run out of ammunition and were surrounded by Taliban fighters, according to witnesses.
In one video, about 45 seconds long, a passerby is heard saying in Pashto, the local language: “Don’t shoot them, don’t shoot them, I beg you not to shoot them.” The passerby then asks: “How is it that the Pashtuns kill the Afghans?” The Pashtuns are the main ethnic group in Afghanistan.
At the end of the video, another off-camera voice says, “Take everything from them.”
In another video, a man is heard saying, “Open your bulletproof vest.” A combatant can be seen removing equipment from the body of one of the soldiers.
The Red Cross has confirmed that the bodies of 22 soldiers have been recovered.
The carnage stands in contrast to the Taliban’s efforts to show that they accept the surrender of the soldiers and, in some cases, pay them to return home while gaining territory across Afghanistan.
The Taliban released a video three days after the fighting in Dawlat Abad, showing the seizure of military trucks and weapons. The video claimed that “the Washington guards, a specially trained CIA special commando who had been pursuing the Taliban in Dawlat Abad, Faryab, were captured alive by the Taliban, unarmed and handcuffed.”
The Taliban told CNN that the videos showing the slain commando members were false and government propaganda to encourage people not to surrender. A Taliban spokesman said they were still holding 24 soldiers who had been captured in Faryab province, but did not provide any evidence.
The Afghan Defense Ministry denied that the Taliban were holding the members of the command and told CNN that they had been killed.
They shot “everyone”
According to several witnesses interviewed by CNN, in Dawlat Abad, the soldiers were killed in cold blood.
One man said that members of the command arrived in the city with several tanks, but that they ran out of ammunition after two hours of fighting and did not receive support from the air.
“The [integrantes del] command were surrounded by the Taliban. Then they took them to the center of the street and they shot all of them, “said the witness.
He also suggested that some Taliban fighters were not from the region and could be foreigners because he could not understand what they were saying when they spoke to each other.
A second witness – a shopkeeper at the bazaar where the shooting took place – agreed that some of the Taliban looked like foreigners. He said the soldiers “weren’t fighting. They all raised their hands and surrendered, and [los talibanes] they just shot. “
Another trader corroborated this story: “I was very scared when the Taliban started shooting at the [miembros del] command. That day everyone was scared. I hid in my store. “
He said he watched the shooting unfold through a small hole in the wall.
Local officials have criticized sending elite commandos to the city without reinforcements or air cover.
Abdul Ahad Ailbek, a member of the Faryab Provincial Council, said the arriving force did not know the area, or which districts the Taliban controlled.
Taliban claim thousands of Afghan soldiers have deserted
Across Afghanistan, tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced amid increased fighting that followed US President Joe Biden’s announcement that all US troops would withdraw from the country before 9/11.
Since then, the Taliban claim to have taken control of nearly 200 districts across Afghanistan, mostly in the north and northwest. In many areas, they have met little resistance.
In a statement on Monday, the Taliban said that “thousands of soldiers” had “defected and received the open arms of the Islamic Emirate,” which they say is the true leadership of the Afghan people.
“Almost two hundred districts were cleared of their malicious presence,” the statement added.
According to the Long War Journal, which tracks territorial control in Afghanistan, as of July 10, 212 districts were under Taliban control, while 76 were under government control and 119 remained in dispute.
In their statement, the Taliban claimed that “the false videos and video footage from years ago showing the activities of Daesh militias [ISIS] they also pose as recent actions committed by the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate. “
Afghan special forces – trained by the United States and better equipped than regular units – number about 11,000. But they can’t keep up as the Taliban intensify their attacks across the country.
Now, without US air support, or intelligence gathering, their mission is even more difficult.
Afghan forces are suffering heavy losses. CNN has obtained another video showing the bodies of soldiers killed by the Taliban in another part of Faryab province last week.
The Red Cross has confirmed that it has collected more than a dozen bodies in that place.
“The Taliban will not take control”
One of those killed in Dawlat Abad was a 32-year-old military man, Sohrab Azimi, who spent two years in a US military school and who was to marry his American fiancée next month.
His father, a retired general, told CNN that Azimi requested air support. But I never arrive.
“Anyone would be angry if that happened to their son. Why didn’t they support the operation and why did someone tell the Taliban they were coming?” General Hazir Azimi asked.
“Afghanistan has lost someone who had an education, who was the future … I am very saddened by their loss.”
General Azimi only had contempt for the Taliban. “They don’t even respect the corpses and the soldiers who have surrendered,” he said.
Abdul Ahad Ailbek, a member of the Provincial Council, said that the “Taliban are the same as before. They have not changed. Unfortunately, they do not bring freedom for the people.”
Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib has tried to reassure Afghans and assured that the country will not fall into the hands of the Taliban.
“The Taliban will not take control,” Mohib said on Monday. “The Afghan people are determined to defend our country, our people and our values.”
When asked about the Dawlat Abad attack, Mohib said that many of the recent defeats of the Afghan National Security Forces were due to a lack of air support.
“The reality is that these were largely surrounded areas that couldn’t be defended, they needed to be supplied by air, and those soldiers ran out of ammunition,” Mohib said.
“A vacuum was created as a result of the withdrawal [de EE.UU.], but we are trying to fill that void. “
Mohib made the remarks at a formal handover ceremony of Afghanistan command authority from Gen. Austin Miller, the top US official in Afghanistan, to Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Central Command.
Concern about the Taliban advance
Miller has repeatedly expressed concern about the pace of the Taliban’s territorial advances.
He says that a political agreement cannot be reached amid escalating violence.
“I am one of the American military officers who has had the opportunity to speak with the Taliban,” Miller said. “And I have told you … that it is important that the military parties establish the conditions for a peaceful and political settlement in Afghanistan.”
However, civilians from Dawlat Abad who spoke to CNN appeared to be wary of the Taliban and their intentions once the foreigners leave.
Several told CNN that the Taliban had quickly introduced new rules after taking over the area. Girls could no longer go to school and women could not go to the market if they were not accompanied by a man.
A witness to the shooting in which the military was killed said: “The Taliban said that if foreigners left Afghanistan they would make peace. How long will they continue with this slaughter of brothers in our country?”
Another witness to the attack said that many people had left the city. He said he had a message for the Taliban.
“We are one Islam, we are one brother. Why are you killing your brothers? Sit with us and talk about this.”