Afghanistan mulls arm­ing 20,000 to de­fend ex-IS held ter­ri­to­ries

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Afghanistan is con­sid­er­ing train­ing and arm­ing 20,000 civil­ians to de­fend ter­ri­to­ries where Is­lamic mil­i­tants have been driven out, of­fi­cials say, spark­ing fears the lo­cal forces could be­come an­other thug­gish mili­tia.

The pro­posal for a gov­ern­ment-backed armed group that would pro­tect its own com­mu­ni­ties from the Tal­iban and the Is­lamic State group comes as Afghanistan’s se­cu­rity forces, de­mor­al­ized by killings and de­ser­tions, strug­gle to beat back a ram­pant in­sur­gency.

But the pro­posal has raised con­cerns that the lo­cal forces could be­come un­ruly and turn into an­other abu­sive mili­tia ter­ror­is­ing the peo­ple it is sup­posed to de­fend.

“The Afghan gov­ern­ment’s ex­pan­sion of ir­reg­u­lar forces could have enor­mously dan­ger­ous con­se­quences for civil­ians,” said Pa­tri­cia Goss­man, a se­nior re­searcher at Hu­man Rights Watch.

The New York-based group said West­ern diplo­mats in Kabul fa­mil­iar with the plan said Afghan of­fi­cials had ex­pressed con­cerns the mili­tia could be used by “pow­er­ful strong­men” or be­come “de­pen­dent on lo­cal pa­tron­age net­works.”

Amer­i­can and Afghan of­fi­cials told AFP the fight­ers would come un­der the com­mand of the Afghan army and be bet­ter trained than the Afghan Lo­cal Po­lice – a vil­lagelevel force set up by the United States in 2010 and ac­cused of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

“Right now we rely on com­man­dos and air strikes to re­take the lost ter­ri­to­ries but af­ter the com­man­dos leave we don’t have enough forces to hold onto the ter­ri­to­ries,” said a se­nior de­fence min­istry of­fi­cial who asked not to be named. “The force will op­er­ate un­der an army corps and will be used to fill the gaps. They will be re­cruited from the lo­cals and will be num­bered around 20,000.”

A spokesman for NATO’s Res­o­lute Sup­port train and as­sist mis­sion also con­firmed a pro­posal for an Afghan ter­ri­to­rial army was on the table.

But an­other Amer­i­can of­fi­cial, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity, said the idea was still in “the brain­storm­ing phase.”

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