After 20 years of warfare, Taliban fighters in Kabul say they miss the battle

The men under his command said they agreed. “We follow the orders of our leadership,” said a 19-year old fighter, Ahmad. “And our leadership said this is our new responsibility.”

But privately many of the men admitted feeling homesick for their villages in Wardak, where Nifiz and his unit are from.

“In Wardak, we lived among the people, not like this,” Nifiz said, gesturing to the government police compound that was now his base. The complex was surrounded by layers of blast walls. The rooms were designed for bureaucrats, with large imposing desks, lines of overstuffed chairs and bookshelves that once held framed photographs of senior Afghan government officials.

In central Kabul, Taliban commanders described similar struggles. When peaceful protesters were recently attacked by Taliban fighters sent to disperse the crowd, the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, excused the violence, saying, “The fighters are not trained to deal with protests yet.” He gave a similar explanation when journalists were badly beaten.