They mentioned the Russians wish to entice 1000’s of the previous elite Afghan commandos right into a “overseas legion” with affords 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 combat — however they don’t have any alternative,” mentioned 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 mentioned 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, 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 GOP congressional report in August particularly warned of the hazard that the Afghan commandos — skilled by US Navy SEALs and Military Inexperienced Berets — might find yourself giving up 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 house to roost,” mentioned 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.”
Mulroy was skeptical, nevertheless, that Russians would have the ability to persuade many Afghan commandos to hitch as a result of most he knew had been pushed by the will to make democracy work of their nation moderately than being weapons for rent.
AP was investigating the Afghan recruiting when particulars of the trouble had been first reported by Overseas Coverage journal final week based mostly on unnamed Afghan navy and safety sources. The recruitment comes as Russian forces reel from Ukrainian navy advances and Russian President Vladimir Putin pursues a sputtering mobilization effort, which has prompted practically 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 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 advised the recruiting is no surprise provided that Wagner has been attempting 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 instructed the AP he’s speaking via the WhatsApp chat service with about 400 different commandos who’re contemplating affords.
He mentioned many like him concern deportation and are indignant on the US for abandoning them.
“We thought they could create a particular program for us, however nobody even considered us,” mentioned the previous commando, who requested anonymity as a result of he fears for himself and his household. “They simply left us all within the arms of the Taliban.”
The commando mentioned 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 mentioned he’s ready to see what others within the WhatsApp teams determine however thinks many will take the deal.
U.S. veterans who fought with Afghan particular forces have described to the AP practically a dozen circumstances, none confirmed independently, of the Taliban going home to accommodate 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 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 navy officers.
The brother of an Afghan commando in Iran who has accepted the Russian supply 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 house.
“My brother had no different alternative aside from accepting the supply,” mentioned the commando’s brother, Murad, who would solely give his first identify due to concern the Taliban would possibly monitor him down. “This was not a simple determination for him.”
Former Afghan military chief Alizai mentioned 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, mentioned their contacts in Iran know what number of have taken up the supply.
“You get navy coaching in Russia for 2 months, and you then go to the battle traces,” learn one textual content message a former Afghan soldier in Iran despatched to Arghandiwal. “A lot of 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 through the two-decade warfare, and only some hundred senior officers had been airlifted out when the US navy withdrew from Afghanistan. Since most of the Afghan commandos didn’t work straight for the US navy, they weren’t eligible for particular USvisas.
“They had 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 mentioned. “Leaving them behind is the largest mistake.”