Afghan particular forces troopers who fought alongside American troops after which fled to Iran after the US’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan final yr at the moment are being recruited by the Russian army to struggle in Ukraine, the Related Press information company has reported.
Three former Afghan generals instructed the AP the Russians need to entice 1000’s of the previous elite Afghan commandos right into a “overseas legion” providing a gentle, $1,500-a-month wage and promising a secure haven for themselves and their households to allow them to keep away from deportation residence to what many assume could be demise by the hands of the Taliban.
“They don’t need to go struggle — however they don’t have any selection,” mentioned one of many generals, Abdul Raof Arghandiwal, including that the dozen or so commandos in Iran with whom he has texted worry 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 mentioned the recruiting is led by the Russian mercenary drive Wagner Group.
One other normal, Hibatullah Alizai, the final Afghan military chief earlier than the Taliban took over, mentioned the trouble 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 US troopers who fought with Afghan particular forces that the Taliban was intent on killing them and that they could be part of with US enemies to remain alive or out of anger with their former ally.
A Republican Social gathering congressional report in August particularly warned of the hazard that the Afghan commandos — educated by US Navy SEALs and Military Inexperienced Berets — might find yourself giving details about US techniques to the Islamic State group, Iran or Russia, or struggle for them.
“We didn’t get these people out as we promised, and now it’s coming residence to roost,” mentioned 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, nevertheless, that Russians would have the ability to persuade many Afghan commandos to hitch them as a result of most he knew have been pushed by the will to make democracy work of their nation slightly 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 a whole bunch of 1000’s of Russian males to flee the nation to flee service.
Russia’s Defence Ministry didn’t reply to a request for remark.
A spokesperson for Yevgeny Prigozhin, who not too long ago 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 instructed the recruiting isn’t a surprise provided that Wagner has been attempting 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 instructed the AP he’s speaking by the WhatsApp chat service with about 400 different commandos who’re contemplating affords.
He mentioned many like him worry deportation and are indignant on the US for abandoning them.
“We thought they could create a particular programme for us, however nobody even thought of us,” mentioned 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 mentioned his provide included Russian visas for himself in addition to his three kids and spouse who’re nonetheless in Afghanistan. Others have been supplied extensions of their visas in Iran. He mentioned he’s ready to see what others within the WhatsApp teams resolve 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 deal with in search of commandos nonetheless within the nation, torturing or killing them, or doing the identical to relations if they’re nowhere to be discovered.
Human Rights Watch has mentioned 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 provide mentioned Taliban threats make it troublesome to refuse. He mentioned his brother needed to conceal for 3 months after the autumn of Kabul, shuttling between family’ homes whereas the Taliban searched his residence.
“My brother had no different selection than accepting the provide,” mentioned the commando’s brother, Murad, who would solely give his first title due to worry the Taliban would possibly observe him down. “This was not a simple determination for him.”
Former Afghan military chief Alizai mentioned 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, mentioned none of their contacts in Iran have been conscious of what number of had taken up the provide.
“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. “Numerous personnel have gone, however they’ve misplaced contact with their households and associates altogether. The precise statistics are unclear.”
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Afghan particular forces fought with the People throughout the two-decade conflict, and just a few hundred senior officers have been airlifted out when the US army withdrew from Afghanistan.
Since lots of the Afghan commandos didn’t work straight for the US army, they weren’t eligible for particular US visas.
“They have 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 mentioned. “Leaving them behind is the largest mistake.”