Russia recruiting U.S.-trained Afghan commandos, says former Afghan generals

Afghan particular forces troopers who fought alongside American troops and fled to Iran after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal are being recruited by the Russian army to battle in Ukraine

Afghan particular forces troopers who fought alongside American troops and fled to Iran after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal are being recruited by the Russian army to battle in Ukraine

Afghan particular forces troopers who fought alongside American troops after which fled to Iran after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal final yr are actually being recruited by the Russian army to battle in Ukraine, three former Afghan generals informed The Related Press.

They stated the Russians wish to appeal to 1000’s of the previous elite Afghan commandos right into a “international legion” with gives of regular, $1,500-a-month funds and guarantees of secure havens for themselves and their households to allow them to keep away from deportation house to what many assume could be dying by the hands of the Taliban.

“They don’t wish to go battle — however they don’t have 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 drive Wagner Group. One other basic, Hibatullah Alizai, the final Afghan military chief earlier than the Taliban took over, stated the hassle can 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 U.S. troopers who fought with Afghan particular forces that the Taliban was intent on killing them and that they could be part of with U.S. enemies to remain alive or out of anger with their former ally.

A GOP congressional report in August particularly warned of the hazard that the Afghan commandos, educated by U.S. Navy SEALs and Military Inexperienced Berets, may find yourself giving up details about U.S. ways to the Islamic State group, Iran or Russia or battle for them.

“We didn’t get these people out as we promised, and now it’s coming house to roost,” stated Michael Mulroy, a retired CIA officer who served in Afghanistan, including that the Afghan commandos are extremely expert, fierce fighters. “I don’t wish to see them in any battlefield, frankly, however actually not combating the Ukrainians.”

Mr. Mulroy was skeptical, nevertheless, that Russians would be capable to persuade many Afghan commandos to affix as a result of most he knew had been pushed by the will to make democracy work of their nation somewhat than being weapons for rent.

AP was investigating the Afghan recruiting when particulars of the hassle had been first reported by Overseas Coverage journal final week based mostly on unnamed Afghan army and safety sources. The recruitment comes as Russian forces reel from Ukrainian military advances and Russian President Vladimir Putin pursues a sputtering mobilization effort, which has prompted almost 200,000 Russian males to flee the nation to flee service.

Russia’s Protection Ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark. A spokesman for Yevgeny Prigozhin, who lately acknowledged being the founding father of the Wagner Group, dismissed the thought of an ongoing effort to recruit former Afghan troopers as “loopy nonsense.”

The U.S. Protection Division additionally didn’t reply to a request for remark, however a senior official urged the recruiting isn’t a surprise on condition that Wagner has been making an attempt to enroll troopers in a number of different international locations.

It’s unclear what number of Afghan particular forces members who fled to Iran have been courted by the Russians, however one informed the AP he’s speaking via the WhatsApp chat service with about 400 different commandos who’re contemplating gives.

He stated many like him concern deportation and are indignant at the U.S. for abandoning them.

“We thought they could create a particular program 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 simply left us all within the palms of the Taliban.”

The commando stated his supply included Russian visas for himself in addition to his three kids and spouse who’re nonetheless in Afghanistan. Others have been provided extensions of their visas in Iran. He stated he’s ready to see what others within the WhatsApp teams resolve however thinks many will take the deal.

U.S. 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 deal with in search of 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 had 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 troublesome to refuse. He stated his brother needed to disguise for 3 months after the autumn of Kabul, shuttling between family’ homes whereas the Taliban searched his house.

“My brother had no different selection apart from accepting the supply,” stated the commando’s brother, Murad, who would solely give his first title due to concern the Taliban would possibly monitor him down. “This was not a straightforward resolution for him.”

Former Afghan military chief Alizai stated a lot of the Russian recruiting effort is targeted on Tehran and Mashhad, a metropolis close to the Afghan border the place many have fled. Not one of the generals who spoke to the AP, together with a 3rd, Abdul Jabar Wafa, stated their contacts in Iran know what number of have taken up the supply.

“You get army coaching in Russia for 2 months, and you then go to the battle strains,” learn one textual content message a former Afghan soldier in Iran despatched to Arghandiwal. “Various 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 conflict, and only some hundred senior officers had been airlifted out when the U.S. army withdrew from Afghanistan. Since lots of the Afghan commandos didn’t work instantly for the U.S. army, they weren’t eligible for particular U.S. visas.

“They had been those who fought to the actually final minute. And so they 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.”

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