Afghan particular forces troopers who fought alongside American troops after which fled to Iran after the United States’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan final yr at the moment are being recruited by the Russian army to combat in Ukraine, the Related Press information company has reported.
Three former Afghan generals advised the AP the Russians need to entice hundreds of the previous elite Afghan commandos right into a “overseas legion” providing a gradual, $1,500-a-month wage and promising a secure haven for themselves and their households to allow them to keep away from deportation dwelling to what many assume can be death at the hands of the Taliban.
“They don’t need to go combat — however they haven’t any selection,” stated one of many generals, Abdul Raof Arghandiwal, including that the dozen or so commandos in Iran with whom he has texted concern deportation most.
“They ask me, ‘Give me an answer? What ought to we do? If we return to Afghanistan, the Taliban will kill us.’”
Arghandiwal stated the recruiting is led by the Russian mercenary force Wagner Group.
One other common, Hibatullah Alizai, the final Afghan military chief earlier than the Taliban took over, stated the trouble can also be being helped by a former Afghan particular forces commander who lived in Russia and speaks the language.
The Russian recruitment follows months of warnings from US troopers who fought with Afghan particular forces that the Taliban was intent on killing them and that they may be part of with US enemies to remain alive or out of anger with their former ally.
A Republican Celebration congressional report in August particularly warned of the hazard that the Afghan commandos — educated by US Navy SEALs and Military Inexperienced Berets — may find yourself giving details about US ways to the Islamic State group, Iran or Russia, or combat for them.
“We didn’t get these people out as we promised, and now it’s coming dwelling to roost,” stated Michael Mulroy, a retired CIA officer who served in Afghanistan, including that the Afghan commandos are highly-skilled, fierce fighters. “I don’t need to see them in any battlefield, frankly, however actually not combating the Ukrainians.”
Mulroy was sceptical, nonetheless, that Russians would be capable to persuade many Afghan commandos to affix them as a result of most he knew have been pushed by the will to make democracy work of their nation fairly than being weapons for rent.
The recruitment comes as Russian forces reel from Ukrainian army advances and Russian President Vladimir Putin pursues a sputtering mobilisation effort, which has prompted hundreds of thousands of Russian men to flee the country to escape service.
Russia’s Defence Ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark.
A spokesperson for Yevgeny Prigozhin, who just lately acknowledged being the founding father of the Wagner Group, dismissed the concept of an ongoing effort to recruit former Afghan troopers as “loopy nonsense”.
The US Protection Division additionally didn’t reply to a request for remark, however a senior official recommended the recruiting is no surprise provided that Wagner has been making an attempt to enroll troopers in a number of different nations.
It was unclear what number of Afghan particular forces members who fled to Iran have been courted by the Russians, however one advised the AP he’s speaking by the WhatsApp chat service with about 400 different commandos who’re contemplating provides.
He stated many like him concern deportation and are offended on the US for abandoning them.
“We thought they may create a particular programme for us, however nobody even considered us,” stated the previous commando, who requested anonymity as a result of he fears for himself and his household. “They only left us all within the arms of the Taliban.”
The commando stated his supply included Russian visas for himself in addition to his three youngsters and spouse who’re nonetheless in Afghanistan. Others have been supplied extensions of their visas in Iran. He stated he’s ready to see what others within the WhatsApp teams determine however thinks many will take the deal.
US veterans who fought with Afghan particular forces have described to the AP almost a dozen instances, none confirmed independently, of the Taliban going home to accommodate on the lookout for commandos nonetheless within the nation, torturing or killing them, or doing the identical to members of the family if they’re nowhere to be discovered.
Human Rights Watch has stated greater than 100 former Afghan troopers, intelligence officers and police have been killed or forcibly “disappeared” simply three months after the Taliban took over regardless of guarantees of amnesty.
The United Nations, in a report in mid-October, documented 160 extrajudicial killings and 178 arrests of former authorities and army officers.
The brother of an Afghan commando in Iran who has accepted the Russian supply stated Taliban threats make it tough to refuse. He stated his brother needed to disguise for 3 months after the autumn of Kabul, shuttling between kinfolk’ homes whereas the Taliban searched his dwelling.
“My brother had no different selection than accepting the supply,” stated the commando’s brother, Murad, who would solely give his first title due to concern the Taliban would possibly observe him down. “This was not a straightforward resolution for him.”
Former Afghan military chief Alizai stated a lot of the Russian recruiting effort is concentrated on Tehran and Mashhad, a metropolis close to the Afghan border the place many have fled. The generals who spoke to the AP, together with a 3rd, Abdul Jabar Wafa, stated none of their contacts in Iran have been conscious of what number of had taken up the supply.
“You get army coaching in Russia for 2 months, and then you definitely go to the battle traces,” learn one textual content message a former Afghan soldier in Iran despatched to Arghandiwal. “Plenty of personnel have gone, however they’ve misplaced contact with their households and pals altogether. The precise statistics are unclear.”
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Afghan particular forces fought with the Individuals throughout the two-decade struggle, and only some hundred senior officers have been airlifted out when the US army withdrew from Afghanistan.
Since most of the Afghan commandos didn’t work immediately for the US army, they weren’t eligible for particular US visas.
“They have been those who fought to the actually final minute. They usually by no means, by no means, by no means talked to the Taliban. They by no means negotiated,” Alizai stated. “Leaving them behind is the largest mistake.”