Taliban fighters take over Afghan warlord’s glitzy mansion

KABUL: Taliban fighters have taken over the glitzy Kabul mansion of one of their fiercest enemies — the warlord and fugitive former vice-president Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Now in the hands of rank and file Taliban fighters, the opulent villa has given the austere fundamentalists a peek into the lives of Afghanistan’s former rulers, and they say the luxury is the proceeds of years of endemic corruption.
Along a corridor with a thick apple-green carpet, a 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 Qari 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 of the mansion would be unimaginable for most ordinary Afghans. Huge glass chandeliers hang in large halls, soft sofas furnish a maze of lounges and an indoor swimming pool is finished with intricate turquoise tiles. It even boasts a sauna 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,” Ayoub said, adding luxury comes in paradise, “the life after death”.
A notorious figure in Afghanistan’s recent history, the mansion’s owner, Dostum, is widely suspected to have profited from the corruption and embezzlement that discredited the former government. When Kabul fell, his stronghold was overrun and the 67-year-old fled to Uzbekistan.
The Taliban have good reason to hate Dostum. In 2001, he was accused of killing over 2,000 fighters — locking many in containers in the middle of the desert where they suffocated. 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.

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