Iran re­cruits Afghans and Pak­ista­nis to fight in Syria

Fight­ers have their own brigades and are lured by prom­ises of hous­ing and em­ploy­ment

Gulf News - - Pakistan -

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.

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