President Joe Biden’s chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan paved the way for a swift takeover of that war-torn nation by Taliban militants.
While the group has already sparked outrage over reports that it is cracking down on women and religious minorities, recent reports suggest its members are on the hunt for something altogether different: an ancient treasure trove known as the Bactrian gold.
“From all over the ancient world”
Several years ago, National Geographic described the collection as “a glittering assemblage consisting of thousands of golden pieces from all over the ancient world.”
The treasure was first uncovered by a Russian archaeologist in 1978 during an excavation at the Tillya Tepe site in northern Afghanistan.
That effort led to the discovery of various tombs dating back thousands of years as well as thousands of artifacts from the same era.
Shortly thereafter, the region devolved into a decades-long conflict. About a decade after the discovery, Afghanistan’s communist president opted to move the treasure to a secret hiding spot as Soviet forces were beginning to withdraw from the country.
The collection was ultimately recovered in 2003 and has since been placed in the National Museum of Afghanistan.
“We will make our laws on the Quran”
Live Science reported recently reported, however, that the treasure has once again gone missing — and might have been looted during the unrest and confusion of the past several weeks.
If the items are determined to have been removed from the country, the Taliban could consider those responsible to be traitors. At the same time, some observers believe the group could attempt to destroy or melt the objects if it is able to recover them.
About two decades ago, the Taliban detonated an explosion at the Buddhas of Bamiyan, a pair of Buddhist statues that stood 125 and 180 feet tall. The 1,500-year-old carvings were denounced at the time as idols by Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
A founding member of the Taliban spoke out recently to warn those in Afghanistan that harsh punishments and strict interpretations of Islamic law will soon replace the comparatively freer society that has been allowed to flourish in recent years.
As Mullah Nooruddin Turabi explained: “No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.”