The Taliban fighters we are with are on a charm offensive. “We have changed. We have changed a lot,” one of them tells us.
“Praise God, our behaviour is very good now…we are polite, our manners are good and our behaviour is much improved. We’re much better than the last government. Kabul is safe now. Security is good.”
Hafez Sultan Ahmed looks young. He is young and when I remark on it, he says he’s 30.
But he’s been fighting those he calls “infidels” for the past 14 years. The infidels are the Western troops who invaded his country two decades ago – the Americans, the British and all the other foreign troops who joined the Alliance against the Taliban ruling Afghanistan in 2001.
“When I first started fighting, I couldn’t even grow a beard,” he says smiling.
But these men crowded around us with curious questions about our views on them, are also proud of their numerous battles, fighting – and killing – over the past two decades.
This unit were stationed in Faryab in the north and fought first Norwegian soldiers and then Americans.
Hafez tells us he’s killed “too many to count”.
“It was war,” he says, “so I don’t know how many I killed… Once a bomb landed and it didn’t explode so we made five mines out of it and blew five of their armoured vehicles to pieces.”
He seemed to take a peculiar pride out of killing his enemies with the same bomb aimed at him and his fellow fighters.
I ask him how he feels about killing and he smiles. “It was jihad – Holy War – and in Islam we don’t regret this. If I had a hundred lives and even if I was blown to bits, we are still ready to lose our lives for Islam…my greatest joy and my sweetest moments have been doing jihad against the infidels.”
Along with the fighters around him, he really believes they have transformed the security in the country and in the capital city.
“Look the streets are safe now. You couldn’t drive round Kabul before safely because there were too many criminals. Now everyone can.
“We are much better than the previous government. Now Afghanistan is the safest country in the world.”
The boast is unlikely to be believed by many. The Islamic State suicide bombing just at the end of last month which killed nearly a hundred civilians including 13 US service members, seems to have been quickly disregarded.
But it is true, our Sky News team has managed to move around the country and the capital with comparative ease having secured accreditation from the acting government.
There are multiple armed Taliban checkpoints where all our paperwork is checked and double-checked – but these have often been accompanied by a cheery “welcome, welcome”.
But while the…