News You Really Need To See: “Afghan Government Turns to Militias as Taliban Gains Strength”

“Afghan Government Turns to Militias as Taliban Gains Strength”

The Washington Post, October 29, 2015

A militia fighter wearing a loose-fitting Afghan tunic and sandals, and with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher strapped to his back, stands at a checkpoint by a rickety bridge.  To pass him requires the permission of Nabi Gechi.  To get married here also requires Gechi’s blessing. … Gechi is neither a district governor nor a tribal elder.  But in this sun-scorched territory of northern Kunduz province, where U.S. troops left long ago and there are no soldiers or police, Gechi and his fighters are the only resistance against a resurgent Taliban.  And that makes him the most influential man for miles around. … [Gechi’s] supporters, including provincial government officials, describe him as a savior who provides security where Afghan forces cannot.  The U.S.-backed government is paying the salaries of 100 of Gechi’s mostly Turkmen fighters, from money provided by the U.S. military.  It has also supplied his militia with ammunition, olive-green Ford Ranger pickup trucks and tan Humvees. … Gechi’s critics, however, contend that the government is legitimizing a warlord whom they accuse of abuse and extortion, particularly directed against ethnic Pashtuns, who, as a group, form the core of the Taliban.  His tactics, they say, propel more people to support the insurgency. … On Sept. 28, the Taliban seized the provincial capital, Kunduz city, the first major urban area to fall to the insurgency since 2001.  For the next 15 days, the militants wreaked havoc.  In response to the assault, the government is considering a plan to increase the number of ALP fighters from 29,000 to as many as 45,000.  A spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, which oversees the forces, said the ALP’s abuses were not a widespread problem, and that the ministry is creating structures to better vet recruits and control the militias. … Many observers are skeptical.  A recent report from the International Crisis Group concluded that the ALP program had done little to improve security and ‘even exacerbated the conflict in a number of districts.’  When the Taliban seized Kunduz, the ALPs fled instead of fighting back.  Gechi, in the end, also was unable to protect his territory.  In the Kunduz offensive, the Taliban fighters also took control of nearly two-thirds of Qala-e-Zal.  Even after the insurgents withdrew from the city Oct. 13, they remained in the district.”

Quickie analysis:  The supreme irony is that these warlords are largely responsible for the rise of the Taliban in the first place.  They repress the people and are in no way an effective replacement for a functioning military when it comes to fighting.  Why is this a good idea again?

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