Taliban fighters make themselves at home in Dostum’s mansion
Fighters occupy glitzy Kabul mansion of one of their fiercest enemies: strongman and fugitive ex-VP Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Salahuddin Ayoubi, left, one of the military commanders of the Taliban, inside the home of the Afghan strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum in the Sherpur neighbourhood of Kabul. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
15 Sep 2021
Taliban fighters have taken over the glitzy Kabul mansion of one of their fiercest enemies: the strongman and fugitive ex-Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Now in the hands of rank-and-file Taliban fighters, the opulent villa has given the fighters a peek into the lives of Afghanistan’s former rulers, and they say the luxury is the proceeds of years of endemic corruption.
Along an endless corridor with a thick apple-green carpet, a young fighter sleeps slumped on a sofa, his Kalashnikov rifle resting against him, as exotic fish glide above him in one of seven giant tanks.
The fighter is part of the personal security detail of Salahuddin Ayoubi – one of the new regime’s most powerful commanders – who installed his company of 150 men in the mansion on August 15, the day Kabul fell.
The luxury AFP news agency saw on a tour of the mansion would be unimaginable for most 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 even boasts a sauna, a Turkish steam bath and a fully equipped gym.
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 AFP, 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, strongman and vice president, he was the very definition of a cunning political survivor who weathered more than 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.
Several officials illegally took land to build luxurious mansions in one neighbourhood, earning it the nickname “Thieves’ Quarter” among residents.
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.
That is overlooked by a mezzanine dominated by a dark wood bar – a testament to the reported decadent tastes of a general renowned for a penchant for late nights and strong liquor.
The Taliban has good reasons to hate Dostum.
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.
But Commander Ayoubi rejected any desire for revenge.
“If other people who had been oppressed like us came here, you would not have seen the chairs and tables. They might have destroyed them,” he said.
But the new regime will not allow such luxury to be built with ill-gotten gains in the future, he said.
“We are on the side of the poor,” he says.
Taliban fighters walk outside the home of the Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum in the Sherpur neighbourhood of Kabul. The luxury of the mansion would be unimaginable for most Afghans. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
Taliban fighters inside the home of Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is widely suspected to have profited from the corruption and embezzlement that discredited the former government. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
Members of the Taliban look at a fish aquariums inside the home of Abdul Rashid Dostum. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
A Taliban fighter poses for a photograph in front of fish aquariums at the opulent villa. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
Taliban fighters sit inside the home of the Afghan strongman. The villa has given the austere fighters a peek into the lives of Afghanistan's former rulers, and they say the luxury is the proceeds of years of endemic corruption. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
A member of the Taliban visits the greenhouse yard at the home of Abdul Rashid Dostum. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
Taliban fighters sit in the greenhouse yard at the mansion. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
Taliban fighters offering prayers inside the mansion, which also boasts a sauna, a Turkish steam bath and a fully equipped gym. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]
Taliban fighters eat their lunch inside Dostum's mansion, which has huge glass chandeliers hanging in cavernous halls, large soft sofas and an indoor swimming pool with intricate turquoise tiles. [Wakil Kohsar/AFP]