Afghanistan has turned into a global security threat and a hotbed of extremism under the Taliban rule, says a veteran Australian war reporter who was allegedly forced to publicly retract some of her articles critical of the Islamist regime.
Lynne O’Donnell told EFE in an interview Thursday that the Taliban detained her for four hours in Kabul and compelled her to tweet an apology and withdraw some of her writings about their forced marriages and violent ways of restricting liberties.
She said Taliban intelligence agents told her that she would go to jail if she did not retract her articles.
O’Donnell flew to Pakistan from Kabul Wednesday, a day after her harrowing experience in Afghanistan.
During her short stay in the war-ravaged country, she founded the Taliban worse than they were when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.
“Afghanistan has become the center of the world for jihadism and the world is threatened as a result,” said O’Donnell, who writes for Foreign Policy and has been a resident correspondent in Kabul for various international news outlets.
O’Donnell tweeted her ordeal after leaving Afghanistan.
“Tweet an apology or go to jail, said #Taliban intelligence. Whatever it takes: They dictated. I tweeted. They didn’t like it. Deleted, edited, re-tweeted. Made video of me saying I wasn’t coerced. Re-did that too. #TwoTakesTaliban (I’m out now) #Afghanistan #journalism.”
In one of her allegedly coerced tweets, she said she wrote the retracted stories “without any solid proof or basis, and without any effort to verify instances through on-site investigation or face-to-face meetings with alleged victims.”
l apologize for 3 or 4 reports written by me accusing the present authorities (the Taliban) of forcefully marrying teenage girls and using teenage girls as sexual slaves by Taliban commanders,” she tweeted on Tuesday.
“This was a premeditated attempt at character assassination and an affront to Afghan culture.”
O’Donnell stated that her driver also went missing after she was detained, and she had no idea where he was.
“They started monitoring my phone and interrogated people I met with,” said O’ Donnell. “I haven’t heard from my driver since Tuesday afternoon.”
O’Donnell said that at a meeting, Taliban foreign ministry spokesperson Abdul Qahar Balkhi informed her that the security and intelligence services did not recognize her as a journalist and would order her to leave the country.
It was before her detention by intelligence officers.
“He (Balkhi) referred to a number of stories that I had written telling me I had made them up,” O’Donnell said.
She said the spokesperson called her a “white supremacist colonialist” and reminded her of a Taliban attack on the Tolo TV staff bus in 2016 after it carried a false report and refused to retract it.
“He was abusive and rude and he is a liar and he even doesn’t use his real name,” she said.
O’Donnell said she texted government spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid but did not hear back.
She said she had no idea how the situation would end in Kabul. But she knew they wouldn’t attack her physically because it would have further ruined their international image.
“I think they are incompetent, foolish, dangerous. What they desperately need is the recognition from the international community.”