New Delhi, Aug 3: Both invocations and protests rise from the roofs of Herat after dark. “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar “, God is great, repeat the voices of the residents- children and adults, men and women of Herat as they call for divine help and protection. Herat- the ancient city — which has historically been the citadel of civilization and culture – has come under attack once again. The Taliban — the instrument of power and destruction of foreign governments, have reached the outskirt of the third largest city of Afghanistan.
It is here that Ismail Khan – the man in the centre of the arena, steps in and vows to defend the city. Citizens of Herat have rallied behind their Ameer Saheb as Ismail Khan popularly known in Afghanistan, to throw out the Taliban from the city and its districts.
One resident recounts the dramatic development that his city is undergoing.
“Tonight was a special night, I wept all alone on the roof of my building hearing people shouting God is Great. It was a very short moment of true inner feeling, but I think it was once-in-a-life experience, shaking my body in finding hope, sense of belonging and community with the rest of the people in the city. This event showed we are all together in this bad phase of history. It is only through these events that we can stay alive, having hope for a better future, one which is void of terror and darkness, and is full of humanity and love. It is times like these and cities like #Herat and leaders like #IsmailKhan that leave legends for our grandchildren to proudly recall,” wrote Ahmadullah Azadani, a citizen of Herat.
Ismail Khan – some call him a “warlord,” others respect him as an “Amir”. A former Mujahid in his 70s has picked up his Kalashnikov, against the Taliban. It was him & his “army” who have prevented the fall of Herat so far. It’s incredible to think of Ismail Khan’s journey from the 1979 Herat rebellion to fighting the Taliban again in 2021. He’s likely to be immortalised in Afghanistan if he succeeds in holding ground.
Mohammad Ismail Khan is one of the most powerful ex- mujahideen and warlords alive, fought first against Soviets, and then against the Taliban. A Tajik from Herat, Ismail Khan is a former Afghan army officer who in 1979, at the beginning of the occupation of Afghanistan, started a revolt against the Soviet military that led him to become the most important mujahideen commander of the Herat.
In 1992, he became the governor of the province. Engaged in the subsequent civil war, he fought against the Taliban until he was captured in 1997. But Khan the survivor and protector managed to escape, to subsequently become one of the key elements of the anti-Taliban military coalition ( Northern Alliance / United Front). The Northern Alliance became key to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom that majorly helped the US forces to liberate Afghanistan from the Taliban in 2001. Khan became a minister in the Karzai government but subsequently parted ways.
India has a very good relationship with the ‘Lion of Herat”. The veteran Amir played a key role in the building of Salma dam by the Indian government. In April Ismail Khan was in India to meet the Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
Last month Afghan president Ashraf Ghani went to Herat to meet Ismail Khan and assured him of all the support of Afghan army.
“We will soon go [for the Taliban to the frontlines] in the city and all western zone with the help of God to change the situation,” Ismail Khan said while exhorting his supporters while taking a round the city.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Afghan defence ministry Fawad Aman has said that the Taliban suffered heavy casualties in the outskirts of Herat city on Monday. 41 terrorists were killed and 32 others were wounded by the Afghan army and Public Uprising Forces. Also, 14 terrorists including 2 Pakistani were arrested.
US B-52 bomber continued to pound Taliban positions in Siawoshan area of Herat Province. The big military operation to push the Taliban back from all districts of Herat provinces is in full swing.
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