KABUL, Afghanistan - Threatening letters from the Taliban, once tantamount to a death sentence, are now being forged and sold to Afghans who want to start a new life in Europe. The handwritten notes on the stationery of the so-called Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan were traditionally sent to those alleged to have worked with Afghan security forces or U.S.-led troops, listing their "crimes" and warning that a "military commission" would decide on their punishment. They would close with a caveat that insurgents "will take no further responsibility for what happens."
The Taliban says it has mostly ceased the practice, while those selling forged threat letters are doing a brisk business as tens of thousands of Afghans flee to Europe, hoping to claim asylum. Forgers say a convincing threat letter can go for up to $1,000. "Of the threat letters now being presented to European authorities by Afghans, I'd say only 1 percent are real and 99 percent are phony," said Mukhamil, 35, who has forged and sold 20 such letters.
He sticks to a simple formula - accusing the buyer of working for Afghan or U.S. forces - and adds a Taliban logo copied from its website. There is no shortage of customers. With unemployment at 24 percent and the insurgency raging across much of the country, the government expects that 160,000 Afghans will have left by the end of the year, four times the number of departures in 2013.