Afghanistan, Pakistan Amongst Most Harmful Locations For Journalists, RSF Stories


Misplaced standing and a determined existence in Iran are driving hundreds of former Afghan troops — a lot of them elite commandos educated by the US — to think about combating as mercenaries in Ukraine and different battlefields.

Many ex-Afghan safety personnel accuse the US of abandoning them after the Taliban regained energy final yr. Additionally they say poverty and safety issues are factoring into their choices to take a non-public Russian mercenary group up on its recruitment gives.

In line with WhatsApp messages considered by RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi, some former Afghan commandos are already making the transfer to hitch the Vagner Group, also called Wagner, a non-public paramilitary group that performs a distinguished position within the Kremlin’s conflict in opposition to Ukraine.

We had no place to dwell in Afghanistan anymore, as a result of the Taliban terrorists chased us.”

Others at the moment dwelling in Iran, the place hundreds of former Afghan troopers sought refuge following the Taliban’s seizure of their native Afghanistan in August 2021, say they’re dwelling a meager existence, resorting to guide labor and even rifling by means of rubbish to promote to make ends meet.

It marks a significant turnaround for the previous members of the Afghan Nationwide Military (ANA) and its elite commando pressure, which have been educated by the US and Western allies and shaped the spine of the previous Afghan authorities’s efforts to defend the nation and fight the Taliban and the Islamic State extremist group.

Afghan troopers in Iran who’ve mentioned they plan to take Vagner up on its recruitment gives say they have been betrayed by the US and the U.S.-backed Afghan authorities that they fought for. Many blame them for his or her present predicament.

The Taliban quickly seized management of the nation as the US pulled out its forces from Afghanistan. With out U.S. help, Afghan forces rapidly capitulated, and plenty of Afghan leaders fled overseas as Taliban fighters descended on Kabul.

“After the autumn of the nation’s traitorous presidential regime, [the United States] offered us out and surrendered the nation to terrorists (the Taliban),” one former member of the Afghan particular forces, who didn’t present his title, mentioned in an audio recording posted on a WhatsApp channel subscribed to by former members of the Afghan navy.

“We had no place to dwell in Afghanistan anymore, as a result of the Taliban terrorists chased us,” he mentioned within the audio, which was posted on December 3. “A number of of our friends have been captured and beheaded, and we have been pressured to go away Afghanistan.”

No Life On The Run

RFE/RL was unable to independently confirm the soldier’s claims, however the extrajudicial killings of former Afghan navy and authorities staff is well-documented, with 100 such slayings recorded within the first months of Taliban rule alone.

Additionally widespread and well-documented is the assumption amongst former Afghan troopers, translators, and authorities staff that they have been deserted by their U.S. allies and that the previous Afghan authorities botched the conflict effort and stole funds that had been allotted to the military.

These claims have been backed by a current report by Enterprise Insider documenting that former Afghan officers smuggled practically $1 billion in gold and money overseas as their authorities neared collapse.

In November, the U.S. Particular Inspector-Common for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) cited corruption as among the many components that hastened the autumn of the Afghan authorities and paved the best way for the Taliban to reestablish management of Afghanistan.

Tens of hundreds of Afghan troops who fought alongside Western allied forces over practically twenty years in Afghanistan are believed to have been left behind when the US withdrew the final of its forces on August 30, 2021.

Whereas an estimated 80,000 at-risk Afghans have been airlifted out, those that weren’t needed to fend for themselves, resulting in issues that tens of hundreds of U.S.-trained troops would don’t have any various however to flee the nation, or be part of the Taliban or a regional adversary.

A lot of them went into hiding in Afghanistan prone to being hunted down by the Taliban, or fled overseas. By some accounts, as much as 30,000 former Afghan troopers made their solution to Iran.

Combating For {Dollars}

The previous soldier who mentioned his scenario on WhatsApp mentioned he fled to Iran for his security and had lived there for a number of months. After receiving phrase that the Vagner group was recruiting Afghans to combat in Ukraine, he mentioned he signed up.

“Afghanistan, NATO, and the US introduced us in as younger males and deserted us,” he mentioned. “Russia began a program. They have been recruiting sure items and taking them to the conflict in Ukraine. So, a lot of our fellow troopers signed up, and we’re going to Russia quickly.”

One other former soldier, in an audio message posted on the identical WhatsApp channel on December 3, mentioned he and a bunch of colleagues had lately arrived in Iran with the intention of becoming a member of Vagner to combat for Russia in Ukraine after listening to in regards to the mercenary group’s recruitment gives.

Critical safety and financial issues and excessive poverty and desperation have pressured them to do that for a chew of bread, to outlive, and to flee the pursuit and torture of the Taliban.”

He claimed that Iran was conscious of the recruitment effort and was even aiding the method of transferring Afghan troopers to Russia.

“We have been in Afghanistan, and there have been many rumors being unfold that former navy personnel had gone to Russia by means of Iran,” the soldier mentioned, talking anonymously. “We registered right here in Iran. They transferred just a few folks earlier than us.”

The soldier mentioned that former Afghan troopers have been being provided everlasting citizenship in Russia in trade for combating in Ukraine.

The previous particular forces officer mentioned that his choice to signal on with Vagner was influenced by security issues in Afghanistan, the place he mentioned he and his fellow troopers had lived in hiding and poverty for 14 months, and the possibility for a greater life for his household.

“We got here alone, however a lot of those that have been transferred earlier are actually with their households [in Russia],” he mentioned. “We determined to go due to our scenario and that of our kids.

“We could not depart the home. Most of our mates have been arrested and killed, and most of them, like me, fled to Iran or Tajikistan,” he mentioned.

We perceive some Afghans could also be susceptible to [Vagner’s] financial inducements, however would warning anybody from becoming a member of within the unlawful invasion of Ukraine.”

The previous Afghan officer estimated that, based mostly on his conversations, some 2,500 Afghan troopers had left Afghanistan with the intention of going to Russia, the place he mentioned he was provided $2,500 for six months of coaching and $3,000 as soon as he goes to Ukraine to combat.

These figures correspond roughly with different studies and testimonials about Vagner’s recruitment drive, which additionally say that Afghan particular forces troops and their households have been being provided secure haven and $1,500 a month to maneuver to Russia and subsequently combat in Ukraine.

Common Farid Ahmadi, a former commander of the particular operations corps of the deposed Republic of Afghanistan, instructed Radio Azadi that he believes safety and monetary issues are driving many former Afghan troopers to think about combating with Vagner.

“Critical safety and financial issues and excessive poverty and desperation have pressured them to do that for a chew of bread, to outlive, and to flee the pursuit and torture of the Taliban,” Ahmadi mentioned in a dwell interview through Skype this month.

Radio Azadi has documented the lives of some former Afghan troopers dwelling in Iran, the place they are saying they’re reeling from their misplaced standing and dire monetary conditions.

Former Afghan particular forces commander Sayed Ahmad Nouri gathering rubbish in Iran.

Sayed Ahmad Nouri, 38, mentioned he used to function a particular forces commander in western Afghanistan however now has to gather rubbish in Mashhad to supply for his massive household.

Nouri laments that he used to direct lots of of troops and “tanks would transfer beneath my command, and I had full authority,” whereas serving with the ANA. Now, he mentioned, his household of 12 lives in a one-room condominium and “are sleeping on prime of each other.”

Abdul Ahad Safi, a former rating official who headed a authorities division combating organized crime in Afghanistan’s Herat Province, now does guide labor at a Mashhad workshop to help his household of 5.

He instructed Radio Azadi that he can “barely hold himself alive” as a result of “my revenue doesn’t cowl our bills.”

Former organized-crime fighter Abdul Ahad Safi doing manual labor in Iran.

Former organized-crime fighter Abdul Ahad Safi doing guide labor in Iran.

Dangerous Penalties

Apart from Russia’s conflict in opposition to Ukraine, a small variety of former Afghan troopers have been recruited to combat in different conflicts, together with for Iran in Yemen, and in Syria and even in Nagorno-Karabakh, in line with Ahmadi.

There was no proof that Afghan forces have really reached the battlefield in Ukraine, and the nation’s safety service didn’t reply to queries despatched by RFE/RL relating to the likelihood that Afghans have been combating for Vagner in Ukraine.

In response to questions by RFE/RL, a U.S. State Division spokesman mentioned in written feedback that the division was conscious of unconfirmed studies that the Vagner group is recruiting former Afghan troopers dwelling outdoors of Afghanistan.

“We perceive some Afghans could also be susceptible to [Vagner’s] financial inducements, however would warning anybody from becoming a member of within the unlawful invasion of Ukraine,” the spokesman mentioned, including that the Vagner group “is utilized by the Russian authorities to help its harmful and destabilizing overseas coverage, whereas trying to keep up deniability.”

Concerning claims by Afghan troopers that they have been deserted by the US in Afghanistan, the spokesman acknowledged the difficulties Afghans face in leaving the nation, however mentioned, “We proceed to watch the financial scenario of Afghanistan and supply help, the place attainable, to the folks of Afghanistan as a part of our enduring dedication.”

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