IRIN News, April 24, 2007


Men in uniforms rob civilians in Helmand

"Armed men who work for the US forces were involved in those nasty actions"

SANGEEN - Local residents in the Sangeen district of the restive southern Afghan province of Helmand said armed Afghan men in military uniforms looted their homes and businesses in early April. There are conflicting reports on whether the men were allied with international forces fighting the Taliban or whether they were an independent militia.

"They were Afghans wearing military uniforms like the national police and army. They broke into many houses and shops and looted whatever they could," a local resident told IRIN in Sangeen on Monday.

Provincial authorities and police officials in the capital, Kabul, confirmed reports of plundering by militias working for US forces in Afghanistan.

"They work for the Americans," Nabi Jan Molakhel, Helmand's police chief, told IRIN on Monday. "We impounded 35 motorcycles and many others items that they had stolen in Sangeen. We tried to apprehend them, but the Americans stopped us saying whatever they had taken belonged to the Taliban."

Defence officials in the United States and Britain estimate that up to half of all aid in Afghanistan is failing to reach the right people.

Nato forces in the south of the country say some Afghan police are guilty of corruption and will steal aid if it is handed out. ... A Pentagon official said thousands of cars and trucks intended for use by the Afghan police had been sold instead.
Sunday Telegraph, January 29, 2007

In Kabul, Zemarai Bashari, spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior, confirmed that no Afghan police or soldiers were involved in the lootings in Sangeen.

"Armed men who work for the US forces were involved in those nasty actions. We don't have a single ANP [Afghan National Police] officer in the Sangeen district for the time being," said Bashari, adding that a 100-man police force would be deployed in the district to ensure law and order in the near future.

NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) and NATO officials denied any knowledge of such militias.

A spokesman for ISAF said its forces work very closely with the Afghan police and army but do not maintain relations with illegal armed groups and other militias in the country.

Nicholas Lunt, NATO's spokesman in Afghanistan, said no Afghan militias are used in their operations but "I cannot comment on whether US forces use non-government Afghan forces in their operations that do not come under NATO command".

In addition to 10,000 US soldiers serving under ISAF command, the US has more than 15,000 extra forces in Afghanistan undertaking various military operations, including direct combat against the Taliban and other groups accused of international terrorism, according to a spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan.

"There are some parts of Afghanistan where the last thing people want to see is the police showing up," said Brigadier-General Gary O'Brien, former deputy commanding general of police for the Combined Security Transition Command -- Afghanistan.
The Canadian Press, March 5, 2007

No one representing US forces in Afghanistan was immediately available to comment on the looting issue.

Jeff Millen, a spokesman for the British-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Helmand, said, "Two Afghan police officers who were accused of the alleged looting have been removed from their posts in Sangeen."

Taliban fighters overran Sangeen district in March and were later expelled by ISAF and the Afghan national army. The operation to drive Taliban insurgents out of Sangeen was part of a broad NATO-led military exercise, dubbed Operation Achilles, which was launched in the southern regions of Afghanistan in early March.

Mandated by the United Nations Security Council, ISAF has more than 35,000 military personnel in Afghanistan from more than 25 NATO member states.

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