Iran recruits Afghans and Pakistanis to fight in Syria
Fighters have their own brigades and are lured by promises of housing and employment
Thousands from Afghanistan and Pakistan are being recruited by Iran to fight with President Bashar Al Assad’s forces in Syria, lured by promises of housing, a monthly salary of up to $600 (Dh2,204) and the possibility of employment in Iran when they return, say counterterrorism officials and analysts.
These fighters even have their own brigades, but counterterrorism officials worry about the mayhem they might cause when they return home to countries already wrestling with a major militant problem.
Amir Toumaj, Iran research analyst at the US-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said the number of fighters is fluid but as many as 6,000 Afghans are fighting for Assad, while the number of Pakistanis, who fight under the banner of the Zainabayoun Brigade, is in the hundreds.
In Afghanistan, stepped-up attacks claimed by Daesh affiliate known as Daesh in the Khorasan Province could be payback against Afghan Shiites in Syria fighting under the banner of the Fatimayoun Brigade, Toumaj said. Khorasan is an ancient name for an area that included parts of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.
“People were expecting blowback,” said Toumaj. Daesh “itself has its own strategy to inflame sectarian strife.”
Mohammad Naim, a restaurant owner in Kabul issued a plea to Iran: “Please don’t send the poor Afghan Shia refugees to fight in Syria because then Daesh attacks directly on Shias,” he said.