New Delhi: During the night, Herat’s roofs erupt with both chants and protests. The residents of Herat repeat ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar ‘ as they call for divine protection and help. Ancient Herat – historically the citadel of civilization and culture – is under attack once again. Taliban – the instrument of power and destruction of foreign governments – have reached the outskirts of the third largest city in Afghanistan.
Here, Ismail Khan – the man in the center of the arena – steps in and promises to defend the city. Ameer Saheb, as Ismail Khan is popularly known in Afghanistan, has rallied the people of Herat to throw out the Taliban from the city.
A resident recounts the dramatic changes taking place in his city. ‘It was a special night for me tonight; I wept all alone on the roof of my building as people shouted, God is Great. I think it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, shaking my body in finding a sense of hope, belonging and community with the rest of the people in the city. In this difficult period of history, we are all together. Having hope for a better future, one devoid of terror and darkness, and full of humanity and love, can only be maintained by these events. In times like these, cities like #Herat and leaders like #IsmailKhan leave legends for our grandchildren to cherish,’ wrote Ahmadullah Azadani, a citizen of Herat.
A former Mujahid in his 70s has picked up his Kalashnikov in order to take on the Taliban. The Lord of Herat & his army saved the city so far as they are referred to as either a ‘warlord,’ or an ‘Amir’. Ismail Khan’s journey from the 1979 rebellion in Herat to fighting the Taliban again in 2021 is incredible. If he holds ground in Afghanistan, he will be immortalized.
Muhammad Ismail Khan is one of the most powerful ex- mujahideen and warlords alive, who first fought the Soviets, then the Taliban. In 1979, at the beginning of the occupation of Afghanistan, Ismail Khan, a Tajik from Herat, started a revolt against the Soviet military that led him to become the most influential mujahideen commander in Herat.
In 1992, he became the province’s governor. During the subsequent civil war, he fought against the Taliban until he was captured in 1997. Khan the survivor and protector managed to escape and went on to become one of the key elements of the anti-Taliban military coalition (Northern Alliance/United Front). As part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Northern Alliance played a key role in liberating Afghanistan from the Taliban in 2001. During the Karzai administration, Khan served as a minister.
India has a very good relationship with the Lion of Herat. Amir played an important role in the construction of Salma dam by the Indian government. In April, Ismail Khan visited India to meet with Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. Ashraf Ghani visited Ismail Khan in Herat last month and assured him of all the support of the Afghan army. As Ismail Khan walked around the city, urging his supporters to change the situation, he declared: ‘We will soon go [for the Taliban to the frontlines] in the city and on the western front’.
According to the spokesperson of the Afghan defence ministry, Fawad Aman, the Taliban suffered heavy casualties on Monday in the outskirts of Herat. During the battle, 46 terrorists were killed and 32 others wounded by Afghan forces and the Public Uprising Forces. In addition, 14 terrorists, including two Pakistanis, were arrested. In the Siawoshan area of Herat Province, a US B-52 bomber continued to pound Taliban positions. Taliban forces are being pushed back from all districts of Herat provinces as part of a major military operation.