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Rise of militias and warlords: northern Afghanistan

February 4, 2021

An interesting and concerning article from the New York Times today highlighting a lot of what is wrong with the security situation inside Afghanistan.  With a dominant and aggressive Taliban presence, local security forces are eroding away and being replaced with lower grade personnel with little or no direct connection to the Afghan governance. Recruits are often tricked to join, with promises of construction work.  Minimal training, minimal – if any – pay and no support if they are injured.  Local warlords – often also possessing military or political titles as well – organise these unofficial groups, often pocketing the difference in salaries between the “official” total of forces they declare as under their command and the “real” total of troops – normally fewer in number and less well paid.

NYT, 4 February 2021: A network of shadowy power brokers and warlords, bankrolled by the Afghan government and the national police force, is luring disadvantaged people into joining militias, sometimes under false pretenses, out of a growing desperation to hold territory around highways in the country’s north, according to former militia members and local officials.

These key arteries, which are the few means of road travel between the provinces, have increasingly become the front line for an emboldened Taliban insurgency. To protect them, local officials in Balkh Province are manning highway outposts with often untrained Afghans, who are given little more than a rifle and the promise of a paycheck if they survive. Others have been offered construction jobs, only to arrive and realize there is no repair work to be done.

The militia members are dropped in areas too dangerous to flee and only picked up weeks or months later, dead or alive.

The crooked recruitment practice is the latest indication that Afghanistan’s security forces have been hollowed out by degrading morale and poor recruitment as Taliban attacks continue at an unrelenting pace across the country.

It also signals a resurgence of warlordism, a distinct echo of a past civil war when the country was fractured into territories ruled over by strongmen and a disturbing warning of where the country’s future may lead as peace negotiations in Qatar stall and a possible complete American withdrawal is just months away…

…In July 2020, Sayid Jawad, a resident of Balkh, thought he had been hired to rebuild a government outpost destroyed by Taliban attacks for $150 a month, the kind of money he hadn’t earned in a long time.

At the base roughly 15 miles from his home in Mazar-i-Sharif, Mr. Jawad, 27, soon realized there was nothing in need of repair. A day later, he was handed a Kalashnikov and received a simple order over the radio from the district governor: Fight or die.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 4, 2021 11:54 am

    Sad beyond words…

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