I assistant produced a special investigative report for Channel 4 News by Stephen Grey broadcast on Monday looking at NATO’s use of irregular militia forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan. See my films section for the full broadcast. Below is Stephen’s article for Channel 4 explaining the report. (click here for the original text)
Nato turn to militias in Afghanistan battle
A Channel 4 News investigation finds that a number of US and Nato units discreetly turn to help from Afghan militias blamed for assassinations and civilian deaths. Stephen Grey reports from Kandahar.
Elite American and Nato military units in Afghanistan have discreetly turned for help from the “private armies” of warlords and tribal leaders as a controversial tactic in the war against the Taliban, it can be revealed.
Working alongside both US intelligence and special force agencies, irregular Afghan militia groups are increasingly being blamed for theft, corruption, targeted assassinations. They have also been accused of involvement in raids aimed at killing the Taliban but in which innocent men, women and children have been killed.
Nowhere are fears more pronounced about the role of militias than in the southern city of Kandahar, at the centre of a Nato operations this summer to reverse the tide of the Afghanistan war. Here, many say private armed groups are feared more than the Taliban. Assassinations often publicly blamed on the insurgents are frequently carried out, it is said, by what some already refer to as “death squads”.
“If someone kills someone the government itself says don’t touch him,” said Shahida Hussein, a local human rights activist who is one of the few who dares to speak openly on the subject. “They say don’t bother him (the killer). He’s our friend. He’s our relative. He has a connection with us.”
Stephen Grey blogs
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Hussein was speaking as she met the latest victim of a militia – a father whose home was ransacked, property stolen and who was thrown in jail by a well-connected militia that was hired by his son-in-law when he tried to assist his daughter in a divorce. She explained such militias only had power because they had protection and earned cash from both the Afghan government and Nato. “There is no real government here. Kandahar is run by people in the drugs trade, armed with weapons and backed by foreign countries.”
Apart from working with the regular members of the Afghan Army and Afghan National Police, Nato is increasingly reliant on irregular forces. Gunmen working for warlords protect the main Nato bases, are hired to provide security for Nato road convoys, are paid to provide intelligence used by Nato spy agencies, and are being recruited both to guard villages in the countryside and, most controversially, to work alongside elite military strike forces run by the US.
Members of a militia set up by American special forces to guard villages around Kandahar in Arghandab district. Continue reading