Taliban Claims Destruction of Historic Fortress Was ‘Misunderstanding’

Taliban fighters stand next to ammunition along a road in Malaspa area, Bazark district, Panjshir Province on September 15, 2021, days after the hardline Islamist group announced the capture of the last province resisting to their rule.(Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)
Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

Taliban officials claimed on Friday that a viral video showing the destruction of Afghanistan’s historic Gereshk Fortress was a “misunderstanding.” The video clearly shows the walls of the ancient site coming down, but the Taliban claimed it was merely demolishing an unused prison located near the fortress.

Longtime observers of the Taliban recalled its history of destroying historical monuments, most notoriously the towering Bamiyan Buddha statues, clumsily annihilated with rockets, bombs, and tank shells by Taliban thugs in 2001 under an edict by the Islamist organization’s founder, Mullah Omar.

“If the statues were objects of a cult for an Afghan minority, we would have to respect their belief and its objects, but we don’t have a single Buddhist in Afghanistan, so why preserve false idols?” Mullah Omar reasoned in 2001.

On Friday, the Taliban denied reports it was demolishing the fortress to build a religious school, and claimed it was actually working on a new construction project:

Gereshk Fortress, located in Afghanistan’s Helmand province about 75 miles from Kandahar, traces its origins back to the Mongol invasion in the 13th Century. 

As mentioned above, the fort played a role in the 14th Century conquests of Central Asian warlord Timur (better known to Westerners as Tamerlane, derived from his unflattering Persian nickname Timur the Lame) and the 18th Century empire of Ahmad Shah Durrani, which established Afghanistan as it is known today. Commanding a strategic position on the Helmand River, the fort was occupied by the British during the First Anglo-Afghan War in 1839 and returned to Afghan control 40 years later.

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