Call to cut links with war-crimes militias

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The Independent Online

Campaigners have called on Nato to cut links with warlords accused of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, following The Independent's investigation into allegations that an Afghan mercenary working for US special forces, Commander Azizullah, went on a two-year war crimes spree.

They have also called for the alliance to make its dealings with such figures open and accountable if it is to have any chance of defeating the Taliban.

"Research by Human Rights Watch has shown that US special forces have worked with Afghan partners in other provinces who are accused of appalling human rights violations, including extra-judicial executions, torture and beatings," Rachel Reid, an analyst at Human Rights Watch, said. "If the US is serious about wanting to bring legitimacy to the Afghan government, then it has got to stop partnering with notoriously abusive commanders."

Thomas Ruttig, co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said militias such as the one commanded by Mr Azizullah seem to operate with impunity "because they simply are outside the Afghan chain of command". He said The Independent report "confirms what I have heard frequently: 'If we complain, we might be targeted.' These types of operations – and alliances – definitely will not win Afghan hearts and minds".