U.S-Backed Afghan Police and Militia Behind Killings and Rape

Human Wrongs Watch

Militias and some units of the new US-backed Afghan Local Police are committing serious human rights abuses, such as killings, rape, arbitrary detention, abductions, forcible land grabs, and illegal raids by irregular armed groups.

This what Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported from Kabul, stressing that the Afghan government and the U.S. “should sever ties with irregular armed groups and take immediate steps to create properly trained and vetted security forces that are held accountable for their actions.”

Image: Swarm | Wikimedia Commons

Just Don’t Call It a Militia’

The 102-page report, “‘Just Don’t Call It a Militia:’ Impunity, Militias and the ‘Afghan Local Police,’” documents serious abuses, such as killings, rape, arbitrary detention, abductions, forcible land grabs, and illegal raids by irregular armed groups in northern Kunduz province and the Afghan Local Police (ALP) force in Baghlan, Herat, and Uruzgan provinces.

The Afghan government has failed to hold these forces to account, fostering future abuses and generating support for the Taliban and other opposition forces,” Human Rights Watch found.

The U.S. “Exit” Strategy

The Afghan government has responded to the insurgency by reactivating militias that threaten the lives of ordinary Afghans” said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW. “Kabul and Washington need to make a clean break from supporting abusive and destabilizing militias to have any hope of a viable, long-term security strategy.”

As part of its exit strategy, the US military is training and mentoring the year-old village-level ALP force, adds HRW. In March 2011, the commander of the international forces in Afghanistan at the time, Gen. David Petraeus, told the US Senate that the ALP is “arguably the most critical element in our effort to help Afghanistan develop the capability to secure itself.”

Cases investigated by Human Rights Watch raise serious concerns about Afghan government and international efforts “to arm, fund, vet, and hold accountable irregular armed groups.” In Kunduz province, militias have spread quickly in recent years.

A Deliberate Policy

HRW report says that their increase is a deliberate policy of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, which has reactivated militia networks primarily through the Shura-e-Nazar (“Supervisory Council” of the north) and Jamiat-i-Islami networks, and provided money and weapons without sufficient oversight.

Just Don’t Call It a Militia” is based on over 120 interviews with victims of abuses and family members, village elders, witnesses, nongovernmental organization workers, Afghan security, human rights and government officials, foreign military officials and diplomats, journalists, and Afghanistan analysts.

The Connections

In most cases of serious abuses documented by Human Rights Watch in Kunduz, no action had been taken against those responsible. For example, in Khanabad district in August 2009, a militia killed four men due to a family dispute.

An NDS official confirmed that the police could not arrest anyone involved in the killing because of the militia commander’s connection to the provincial chief of police and a local strongman who is closely involved with abusive armed groups.”

A prosecutor who is also the father of one of the men killed told Human Rights Watch, “No one has helped me, and I work for the government, so what about the other people? Who will listen to them?”

Patronage links to senior officials in the local security forces and the central government allow supposedly pro-government militias to terrorize local communities and operate with impunity,” Adams said.


At the same time, the rapid build-up of the ALP has contributed to concerns about whether it will be a law-abiding force, Human Rights Watch said.

Created in July 2010 at the behest of the US, the force is supposed to supplement the Afghan national army and police at the community and village levels. The Afghan Local Police is seen by the US military as a way to address the pressures of trying to hand over control of security to the Afghan government by 2014.

Up to 30,000 Armed and Trained “Abusers”?

Village shuras (councils) are tasked to nominate and vet members of the ALP, whose units report to the district chief of police, says HRW report.

Units trained for only 21 days are being armed and deployed in areas where there is limited Afghan national army and police presence, according to HRW. As of August, 7,000 men had been recruited to the force. Plans are under way to arm and train up to 30,000.

Previous Plans Have Failed

Previous programs to create local defense forces have been hijacked by local strongmen or by ethnic or political factions, spreading fear, fuelling vendettas, and in some areas even playing into the hands of Taliban insurgents, Human Rights Watch said.

One example was the Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP), created in 2006, which was barely trained, underwent minimal vetting, had poorly defined rules of engagement, had high levels of infiltration, and was highly corrupt, says HRW report.

Another, the Afghan Public Protection Force (AP3) in Wardak province, was hijacked by local strongmen and became involved in beatings and intimidation.

While there is a need for more security at the village level, the Afghan and US governments should be very careful not to repeat the mistakes of militias past,” Adams said.

If quick corrections are not made, the ALP could end up being just another militia that causes more problems than it cures.”

Not At The Expense Of Human Rights

Pressure to reduce international troop levels should not be at the expense of the rights of Afghans,” Adams said.

The Afghan government and its supporters need to understand that insecurity does not come only from the insurgency.”

Poor governance, corruption, human rights abuses, and impunity for government-affiliated forces all are drivers of the insurgency, and these issues need to be addressed if true stability is to come to Afghanistan.”

HRW full release:


2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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