FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Afghanistan’s US-Backed Child-Raping Police

The strategy of the major U.S. and British military offensive in Afghanistan’s Helmand province aimed at wresting it from the Taliban is based on bringing back Afghan army and police to maintain permanent control of the population, so the foreign forces can move on to another insurgent stronghold.

But that strategy poses an acute problem: The police in the province, who are linked to the local warlord, have committed systematic abuses against the population, including the abduction and rape of pre-teen boys, according to village elders who met with British officers.

Anger over those police abuses runs so high that the elders in Babaji just north of Laskgar Gah warned the British that they would support the Taliban to get rid of them if the national police were allowed to return to the area, according to a Jul. 12 report by Reuters correspondent Peter Graff.

Associated Press reporters Jason Straziuso and David Guttenfelder, who accompanied U.S. troops in Northern Helmand, reported Jul. 13 that villagers in Aynak were equally angry about police depredations. Within hours of the arrival of U.S. troops in the village, they wrote, bands of villagers began complaining the local police force was “a bigger problem than the Taliban”.

The brutality of the Afghan police toward the civilian population in Helmand was no surprise to Ambassador Ron Neumann, who was the U.S. envoy in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007. Such abuses, including rape of pre-teen boys, “are part of the larger problem of repression and oppression” in Afghanistan, Neumann told us.

Neumann said the problem of police abuses against the population can be traced back to the creation of the national police after the overthrow of the Taliban regime in late 2001. The Afghan police were not created afresh by U.S. and NATO force, Neumann recalls but were “constituted from the forces that were then fighting the Taliban”.

In Helmand province, the police came from the militia of the local warlord, former Mujihideen commander Sher Mohammed Akhunzadeh, a member of the Alizai tribe, who had dominated the province before the Taliban took control of the Pashtun south in 1994. Akhundzada became the governor of Helmand province in 2002.

The rivals of the Alizai in Helmand are members the Ishaqzai tribe, who become influential in the province during the Taliban period, as noted by Antonio Giustozzi in his book “Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop”, published this year.

The restoration of Akhundzada to power gave the warlord and his militia the opportunity to use the police to take revenge on their Ishaqzai rivals. If you are the police under these circumstances, Neumann said, “you take the people’s land, their women, you steal from them – it’s all part of one package.”

The predatory rule of Akhundzada and his militias was interrupted for a second time when the Taliban took control of large areas of the province in 2008.

The Scotsman’s Jerome Starkey quoted a shopkeeper in the city of Lashkar Gah, not far from the headquarters of the British and U.S. marine contingents in northern Helmand Jul. 16, as saying that the Taliban “were good for the welfare of ordinary Afghans, for poor people like us.” The reason, he explained, was that, “[i]n Taliban times, there was punishment for criminals.”

The British and U.S. forces in Helmand province appear to be unprepared to deal with the popular anger over police abuses. The spokesman for the U.S. 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Captain William Pelletier, told us in e-mail that he had “no information about the allegations of misconduct” by police reported to British officers, despite the fact that the Marine brigade’s headquarters in Helmand are right next to those of the British Task Force Helmand.

Pelletier had not responded as of Wednesday to an us query about popular allegations to U.S. officers of police abuses in the U.S. area of responsibility in Helmand.

The spokesman for the British Task Force Helmand, Lt. Col. Nick Richardson, asked in an interview with us about the grievances voiced by village elders to British officers, said, “We are aware of those.”

He refused to specify what grievances against the police had been aired to the British, but said, “If there is any allegation, it will be dealt with by the appropriate authorities.”

That meant the “the chain of command of the Afghan national police”, Richardson explained.

But the Afghan national police command has little real power over the police in Helmand Province. As of mid-2007 the national police command controlled the appointments of only four of the 13 districts in Helmand Province, according to an International Crisis Group (IGC) study in August 2007. The remaining nine were evidently controlled locally – meaning that the Akhunzada was able to keep his own men in position in most of the districts.

Although the IGC study did not specify which districts were not controlled by the national police command, the districts which are the objects of the U.S.-British military operation in Helmand are especially sensitive because they include the main opium poppy fields in the province.

Akhundzada maintains his power in Helmand in part because of a firm political alliance with President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai was forced by British pressure to remove Akhundzada from office in January 2006, after a British-trained counter-narcotics team found nearly 10 tonnes of heroin in the warlord’s basement.

But Karzai also ensured that Akhundzada retained his full power in Helmand, forcing Akhundzada’s replacement as governor, Mohammad Daud, to accept the warlord’s brother Amir Mohammed, as his deputy. That signaled that Akhundzada was effectively still in control.

Then Karzai began forming what would eventually be called “Afghanistan National Auxiliary Police”, the new recruits for which came straight out of Akhundzada’s 500-man private army and those of other warlords.

By the end of 2006, Karzai had removed Daud, a favourite of the British, because he was free of links with the drug lords. Karzai replaced him with an aged and infirm official who was less likely to refuse to cooperate with Akhundzada.

As recently as September 2008, Karzai was hinting to Afghan MPs that he would have reinstated Akhundzada had it not been for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s threat to withdraw British troops from Helmand if he did.

Helmand province is the epicenter of the Afghan drug industry, which generates an annual income for those who manage it estimated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime at three billion dollars. Much of that income is siphoned off by the local warlords like Akhundzada who protect the drug lords’ operations.

Although poppy fields in Helmand were supposed to have been eradicated under official government policy, large areas of poppy fields owned by wealthy farmers were untouched, as reported last April by the Telegraph.

Ambassador Neumann told us he believes the police should be excluded from security responsibilities in the province. It is not clear, however, whether British and U.S. forces in Helmand will prevent the return of the very police who committed crimes against the population in the province.

The U.S. solution appears to be more training. U.S. troops in Aynak sent the police stationed in the local police headquarters out of the province for several weeks of training, replacing them with a unit they had brought with them, according to an Associated Press report.

But British spokesman Richardson told us that both the Afghan military and police, who had been absent from the area before the British offensive in Northern Helmand, “are returning to the area bit by bit”.

GARETH PORTER is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail