Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Local Militias Warlords and the ANA

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Local Militias Warlords and the ANA

On April 27, 2011, a frustrated Afghan Air Force pilot killed eight coalition troops and one civilian contractor in Kabul International Airport. Afghan pilot, Ahmad Gul, who served in the air force for over thirty years under the communist regimes, was a poor man suffering from frustration and anxiety. As he was not paid his salary for mouths; he sold his house to feed his poverty stricken children.

The credibility of Afghan Ministry of Defense has been seriously stained by the strike of a suicide bomber who had reached the third floor of the building to kill the Defense Minister. The tide of concerns continues rising regarding the readiness of national security forces to defend the country against internal and external threats. This successful attempt made dubious the capacity of Afghan army in defending Afghanistan. In recent months, thousands of Afghan soldiers and police officers registered complaints with various military headquarters and units about the non-payment of their salaries. Over ninety percent soldiers of the army and the police are living in rented houses; therefore, they need their salaries on time. In 2011, these two incidents are another setback for the U.S and NATO commanders handing over security duties to the Afghan National Army (ANA) by 2014.


The Taliban infiltration into the ANA units is the most serious issue facing NATO allies and Afghanistan. Several ethnic incidents, political appointments, sub-conflicts and inter-related conflicts have also caused volatile crisis in the country. Some conflicts are being fuelled by ethnic and sectarian elements working in the Defense and Interior Ministries. Some other factors that caused alienation and frustration in both Interior and Defense Ministries are Afghanistan's geographical location, foreign involvement, economic deprivation, hardship, factionalism, ethnicity, poverty and unemployment.
In 2007, the use of Improvised Explosive Devices confined the NATO patrol to the streets of major Afghan cities. Between 2008 and 2011, Taliban insurgency grew in the once stable Western and Northern provinces while military and civil administration divided on ethnic and political bases. Every General showed his loyalty to the party leader he belonged to not the state. Taliban Militants also tried to undermine trust between coalition and Afghan forces.

An Afghan General once told me that suicide attacks within the army units are part of a Taliban strategy to undermine the Afghan population's faith in their own security forces. Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, ANA has been promoted as the cornerstone of counterinsurgency in the country, but, as there is a failed state with corrupt administration that cannot provide security at local level, incapable of fostering lawful economic growth, justice and reconciliation with Taliban, the army has not been able to respond to the wishes of the people effectively.
This is more than a factional army working for the interests of different factions in and outside the Ministry of Defense. International coalition instead of supporting the ANA strengthens Private Security Companies. While warlords and their militias are primary source of insecurity. These rogue armies have challenged Afghan National Army. Their illegal operations encouraged Taliban and their sympathizers to appointed their own governors and officers in various provinces in Afghanistan. State failure, ineffective counter insurgency effort and uncontrolled organized crime empowered both Taliban and Private militias. Drug and human trafficking and kidnapping for ransom increased and the network spread to the headquarters and units of the ANA and ANP.

Black market economy, smuggling, containerized trade and narco money is a lucrative source of illegal revenue which is used to bribe government officials. During the last ten years, as the U.S and NATO have not been able to stabilize Afghanistan, now, they are in consultation with Afghan government to apply the Iraq strategy on the country.
The American General David Petreus's controversial plan to recruit thousands of locals in remote Afghan villages was opposed by the Defense and Interior Ministries. NATO intends to train and arm various groups as local police wear uniforms, carry registered weapons and should be on the government payroll. Some of these militias would operate without the government guidance, command or control. But, the proliferation of these local and private bodies attests to deficiencies in the strength and quality of regular Afghan security forces and a lack of public confidence in the army and police.

Americans say this is not a new concept of protecting civilian population from insurgents; this concept has historical precedents in South East Asia. Britain in Malaysia and U.S in Vietnam had applied this strategy successfully. In Afghanistan, the story is less different as experts expressed concern that this strategy can strengthen war criminals and damage the rule of law.

In Iraq, they armed Suuni militias and thus insurgency was quelled. This is not true. The same story is being repeated in Afghanistan to arm tribal militias, empower them legally and use them against the Taliban insurgents. According to a United Nation report, a local militia that is expected to replace Australian troops after their withdrawal from Uruzgan province is loyal to local war criminals rather than the Afghan government. Since the International military intervention in Afghanistan, the U.S and NATO have been attempting to tackle the Taliban insurgency through private militias. All these plans and strategies are based on misconception.

After the failures of all U.S strategies, private militias' brutality, and insecurity, there is growing consensus among Afghan population that the U.S and NATO allies are pursuing flawed military strategies of arming war criminals militias under the banner of the "Afghan Local Police" which will harm the prospects of peace and security in future.

Americans say that in 1950s, 60s and 70s, various Afghan governments were relying upon tribal militias and other organized auxiliary units in maintaining state security. The growing reliance of Dr. Najibullah regime on Dostum militia (Gelam Jam militia) underlines the weakness of his government in 1990s. All privately developed militias like; Andrabi militia, Ismatullah Muslim Militia, Tajik and Pashtun war criminals militias, were the weakness and inabilities of the Afghan governments that couldn't maintain its credibility and effectiveness.

In summation, by 2014, ANA may suffer from more ethnic and sectarian problems and will not be able to fight various local warlords and their militias. To overcome all these drawbacks and military weakness, US President Obama once again announced the revision of his Afghan war strategy with the transfer of his top national security and intelligence officials.

The Writer is the executive editor of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and the author of Britain’s National Security Challenges. He can be reached at zai.musakhan222@gmail.com.

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