The Killid Group, May 30, 2015

Breakthrough, or will it boomerang?

There are reports the government is re-arming the militia to fight a resurgent militancy

By Noor Wali Sayeed Shinwarai

Many hundreds of people have been armed along the border, and their numbers are growing. The police commander of Kunduz has posted a video on a social network site of armed men in national dress saying they would soon recapture the Gultapa area from the government's opponents.

While local authorities are all for the strategy, there are serious misgivings among people.

Reuters news agency reports from Kunduz that more weapons have been distributed among Afghan Local Police (ALP) and militia than in the past, and they are under the control of military commanders.

Presidential spokesman Ajmal Obaid Abydi has been quoted saying on the strategy, "What is under consideration is to select some individuals from volunteers to defend their country from terrorists." Kunduz Governor Omar Safai also considers this an effective plan in the present context. "Afghan security forces can strengthen security but local people know the area well and they are very useful," he told Radio Azadi. According to Safai, weapons have been distributed to some 1,000 individuals led by former jihadist commanders while an equal number of volunteers are waiting for arms to take on the armed anti-government fighters.

Meanwhile in Badakhshan, local MPs and senators have decided that if armed opponents of the government are not ready to accept peace, "the nation would lift guns against them". Ata Mohammad Noor, the executive head of Jamiat Islami and acting governor for Balkh has also said that if the Kabul government does not pay attention to the security interests of the north, he himself would gather people and mount an independent defence. Anti-government fighters are attacking locals in provinces from Ghazni to Kunar, Kandahar and Logar.

Dangerous game

Political observers are worried about the long-term impact of arming warlords and the militia. The new strategy of distributing weapons could mean fanning a new insecurity because those who are being armed are in fact accused of human rights violations.

According to Safai, weapons have been distributed to some 1,000 individuals led by former jihadist commanders while an equal number of volunteers are waiting for arms to take on the armed anti-government fighters.
The Killid Group, May 30, 2015

Dr Kalil explained to Killid that the militia, have rival loyalties and enmities that stretch back decades. Equipped with weapons to take on anti-government opponents, they are bound to train it at each other and become a big headache for local people. "I believe that if erstwhile commanders are given weapons, they would fan internal fighting, and take us back to feudal times when power was decided by the gun. The government must not follow this course which is bound to have terrible consequences. Afghanistan has been destroyed enough," he warned.

Independent researchers interviewed by the media have expressed concern on this and many other counts: militia forces are responsible only to powerful individuals and not a joint commander; and, handing over security responsibilities to anything other than the Afghan military is not beneficial to Afghan government, rather it would cause instability. Moreover, there is no guarantee that these local commanders would continue to support the government, they said.

Learn from history

Afghanistan has enough experience of armed militia and warlords flouting human rights laws over the last decade. Both the deputy in the Ghazni provincial assembly and governor have recently said there are irresponsible armed individuals who are extracting a so-called toll from local people to defend them against insurgents.

Abdul Jamea Hamea, the deputy told Killid that there are more than 400 armed people, and they have set up private jails in districts like Andar, Qara Bagh, Dehyak, Maqour and Gilan. "They take innocent people to these jails and then ask huge amounts of money from their families for their release."

Meanwhile, the Ghazni governor, Musa Khan Akbarzada, said in an interview with Killid that his government is trying to bring armed fighters who rose up against the Taleban in Andar last year into the government framework. However, Faizanullah Faizan, who is among the rebels, told Radio Azadi that he would never join the government because it has not helped him. He is bitter about the past. "Our belief now is that no one should take action as we did (revolting against Taleban). We did this but we were forgotten and left behind. Even widows and orphans were not helped, they have been ignored."

In Kunduz, however, provincial authorities view the rearming of warlords and militia as an effective strategy to expand the role of the government in tackling security challenges. Wary analysts who consider it ill-advised think the previously disarmed militia have been handed on a platter the opportunity to flex their muscles once again.

Colonel Spinghar Niazai, military affairs expert, fears the present government may be going down the same slippery slope as under Dr Najibullah (president from 1987 to 92) who in arming the militia destroyed government authority.

"Brother, the government has again started distributing weapons to warlords, and cutting its own feet," he said. "If it were to use the money on the national army, it would be more effective."

Dawlat Waziri, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, seeks to calm all fears of possible anarchy in the future. He insists the government and military would never support "irresponsible" armed militia.

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