Afghan particular forces troopers who fought alongside American troops after which fled to Iran after the USA’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan final yr at the moment are being recruited by the Russian navy to combat in Ukraine, the Related Press information company has reported.
Three former Afghan generals informed the AP the Russians wish to entice hundreds of the previous elite Afghan commandos right into a “overseas legion” providing a gradual, $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 can be loss of life by the hands of the Taliban.
“They don’t wish to go combat — however they haven’t any alternative,” 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 pressure Wagner Group.
One other normal, Hibatullah Alizai, the final Afghan military chief earlier than the Taliban took over, mentioned the hassle can also 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 — skilled 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 combat 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 wish to see them in any battlefield, frankly, however actually not combating the Ukrainians.”
Mulroy was sceptical, nonetheless, that Russians would be capable to persuade many Afghan commandos to hitch them as a result of most he knew had been pushed by the will to make democracy work of their nation relatively than being weapons for rent.
The recruitment comes as Russian forces reel from Ukrainian navy advances and Russian President Vladimir Putin pursues a sputtering mobilisation effort, which has prompted a whole lot of hundreds 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 just 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 recommended 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 informed the AP he’s speaking via the WhatsApp chat service with about 400 different commandos who’re contemplating provides.
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 simply left us all within the palms of the Taliban.”
The commando mentioned his provide 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 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 searching for commandos nonetheless within the nation, torturing or killing them, or doing the identical to members of the family 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 provide mentioned Taliban threats make it tough to refuse. He mentioned his brother needed to cover for 3 months after the autumn of Kabul, shuttling between family’ homes whereas the Taliban searched his residence.
“My brother had no different alternative than accepting the provide,” mentioned the commando’s brother, Murad, who would solely give his first title due to worry the Taliban would possibly monitor him down. “This was not a straightforward choice 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 had been conscious of what number of had taken up the provide.
“You get navy coaching in Russia for 2 months, and then you definitely go to the battle traces,” learn one textual content message a former Afghan soldier in Iran despatched to Arghandiwal. “Quite a few personnel have gone, however they’ve misplaced contact with their households and buddies altogether. The precise statistics are unclear.”
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Afghan particular forces fought with the Individuals 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 US visas.
“They had 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.”