21 March 2015

US empower and fund militia as part of exit strategy in Afghanistan

The New York Times has reported militias, paramilitary forces and warlords are now prevalent in Afghanistan. These groups were created as part of the United States’ exit strategy, with varying support and US involvement.

In the Ghazni Province, the American Special Operations gave financial support, ammunition and armored vehicles raising militia men who ‘had little or no official connection to the Afghan government and were often former insurgents themselves’, reported the New York Times. The most well-known group are the Afghan Local Police with close to 30,000 Special Forces-trained militiamen ‘nominally answering to central government’. Some paramilitary forces were created to guard US bases, forces trained by the CIA to pursue the Taliban and Al Qaeda, while others formed a more general part of the American counterinsurgency strategy which ‘mobilized anti-Taliban militias in areas beyond the grasp of the Afghan Army’.

Although the programme has been successful in some places, reports of abuses and banditry by units are common. Afghan Officials, including the former President Hamid Karzai, objected to the practice at the outset viewing the militia as a ‘destabilizing force’, particularly as they did not answer directly to the Afghan government and ‘competed with efforts to build up large and professional military and police forces’.

Many of these concerns have now materialised. There have been several cases of anti-Taliban fighters arresting and killing children suspected of cooperating with the Taliban. Many militias have also ‘become predatory’ since the United States left Afghanistan. A man interview by the New York Times stated that several of them were taken by one group, beat with chains and asked to pay ‘50,000 or 100,000 rupees, depending on who we were’. The Human Rights Watch and rights divisions of the United Nations have censured one leader in particular by the name of Abdullah, trained by the American Special Forces, on the basis of extrajudicial killings. Other rights groups have portrayed him as ‘being among Afghanistan’s most notorious militia commanders’.

Abduallah stated that he considered the Americans ‘brothers’- ‘whatever they wanted me to do, I would do for them … if they tell me to kill someone, I will kill them’. He confirmed that US soldiers informed the group about the laws of war and human rights, however, the New York Times has noted that the practice of militia like Abdullah’s casts doubt on the the extent to which this has been understood.

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Source: The New York Times | Afghan Militia Leaders, Empowered by U.S. to Fight Taliban, Inspire Fear in Villages

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