US-Supported Afghan Militias Commit Widespread Human Rights Abuses

A Human Rights Watch report details impunity of criminal gangs, off the hook due to ties to corrupt Afghan officials

by John Glaser, September 12, 2011

US-supported Afghan militias are committing widespread human rights abuses, but neither Washington or Kabul are holding them accountable or changing policy in light of the crimes, according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

The report “documents serious abuses, such as killings, rape, arbitrary detention, abductions, forcible land grabs, and illegal raids by irregular armed groups in northern Kunduz province and the Afghan Local Police (ALP).” The governments of the United States and of Afghanistan have not only failed to hold these forces to account, but they have fostered future abuses and generated more support for the Taliban and the insurgency, the report finds.

The ALP was created in July 2010, intended by US strategy to supplement the Afghan national army at the community and village level in the lead up to the drawdown of US occupation forces. This one force is approximately 7,000 strong across Afghanistan, although plans are underway to arm and train up to 30,000.

In March 2011, General Petraeus told the US Senate that the ALP is “arguably the most critical element in our effort to help Afghanistan develop the capacity to secure itself.” Yet the ALP, along with various other longstanding US-supported militias, are committing severe crimes and helping to drive the insurgency.

The ALP has been accused of “beating teenage boys and hammering nails into the feet of one boy,” although no arrests were made. “In April,” the report documents, “four armed ALP members in Baghlan abducted a 13-year-old boy on his way home from the bazaar and took him to the house of an ALP sub-commander, where he was gang raped.” The perpetrators are well known, but no arrests have been made.

The ALP has raided several houses, stolen personal belongings, beat residents, and illegally detained six men. Like in the other cases though, no arrests or investigations have been initiated because of the militias’ patronage links to senior Afghan officials.

The Obama administration’s policy to surge and then announce a gradual withdrawal out of at least some areas of Afghanistan was said to be based on providing security and winning hearts and minds. But their own security forces are abusive thugs that deteriorate the security situation. And Afghan hearts and minds are leaning far, far away from US forces.

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