On September 26, 1996, the Taliban captured Kabul. I was a junior staffer at the Afghan Ministry of Defense. My job was mainly liaising with foreign and local media, international aid organizations and the small diplomatic community in the country then. I fled with the retreating forces to my hometown in the northern Panjshir Valley, and followed the news with close attention, curious to see how the Taliban would deal with Afghanistan’s urban population in the capital city.
The headlines revealed nothing but horror. The Taliban’s entry into Kabul was much like how Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge stormed the Cambodian capital. The Talibs hunted down former Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah, who had governed Afghanistan with Soviet backing from 1985-1992, seizing him and his brother from a UN compound where he’d sought refuge four years earlier. They brutally and publicly tortured both men, hanging their bloodied bodies from a lamp post near the presidential palace.