Facing a fierce Taliban offensive across a corridor of northern Afghanistan, the government in Kabul is turning to a strategy fraught with risk: forming local militias and beseeching old warlords for military assistance, according to Afghan and Western officials.
The effort is expected to eventually mobilise several thousand Afghans from the north to fight against the Taliban in areas where the Afghan military and police forces are losing ground or have had little presence. The action is being seen as directly undermining assurances by officials that the security forces were holding their own against the Taliban.
Further, the plan to turn to irregular forces is stoking anxieties of factional rivalries and civil strife in a nation still haunted by a civil war in the ‘90s in which feuding militia commanders tore the country apart. Some of the commanders involved in that bloodletting a generation ago now hold senior government positions and are encouraging the current effort to mobilise and rearm militias.
“We have experienced this failed experiment of militia-making before,” said Fawzia Koofi, a member of parliament from Badakhshan, one of the provinces where the government is planning to form the militias. “This will spread the war from house to house, starting rivalries as everyone begins arming their own groups.”
The establishment of the Afghan military and police forces, which are said by officials to number more than 320,000 members as of late last year, has been held up as one of the signal accomplishments of the US-led presence here. By many accounts, the forces have continued to fight effectively. But the Afghans are taking casualties at an alarming rate. In the first four months of 2015, more than 1,800 soldiers and police officers were killed in action, and another 3,400 were wounded, according to a Western military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss figures not officially being released by the Afghan government.
Now, the militia plan suggests diminished confidence in the Afghan army and police forces — important national institutions in a country with few of them.
Secret meet in china?
An Afghan peace envoy held secret talks with Taliban leaders in China last week which were also attended by Chinese officials and representatives of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, a media report has said.
The meeting being held at the initiative of China, which in recent months has showed willingness to mediated between the Taliban and the Afghan government, was facilitated by the ISI, The Wall Street Journal said.