Militias funded by US accused of rights abuses

Militias in Afghanistan funded by the United States are terrorising the communities they were supposed to protect, murdering, raping and torturing civilians, including children, extorting illegal taxes and smuggling contraband, according to a damning new report from Human Rights Watch.

In a 102-page report entitled 'Just Don't Call It a Militia' the group documents how the Afghan government and the US military have provided guns and money to paramilitary groups without adequate oversight or accountability. Because of their links to senior Afghan officials, many of these groups operate with impunity.

Their behaviour fuels support for the Taliban, and creates insecurity rather than decreasing it. But, under US General David Petraeus, who recently left Afghanistan to head up the Central Intelligence Agency, Nato aggressively pursued a strategy of raising militias as a security quick-fix ahead of its departure in 2014.

Because US law, makes it illegal to finance groups facing credible allegations of human rights abuses, the report's findings could, potentially, put at risk a central plank of Nato's exit strategy if US lawmakers would have it so.

The report follows an investigation earlier this year by The Independent that found US special forces were bankrolling an Afghan mercenary called Commander Azizullah in Afghanistan's south-eastern Paktika province. Under their patronage Azizullah had embarked on a spate of rights abuses including murders, rape, theft, torture, the mutilation of corpses and the desecration of a mosque, according to internal UN documents and testimony from a number of Afghan and Western sources.

Azizullah has always maintained his innocence. Despite the severity of the allegations and the questions they raised about the lack of oversight Azizullah was subject to, Nato refused to launch a formal inquiry.

After riding out the storm caused by the revelations, Azizullah was alleged to have killed again at the start of June. The victim was a teenage student who had been travelling the road from Urgun to Sarhawza in Afghanistan's southeast when Azizullah and his men stopped him, shot and killed him.

"Afterwards he placed an AK-47 on the body and took a photo," an Afghan official, who heard the story from local elders, told The Independent.

The official echoed concerns in the Human Rights Watch report about the lax oversight and lack of accountability militias are subject to, and worried that by now, Azizullah's terror campaign had been so effective that "however many investigations special forces or [Nato] conduct, it doesn't matter. No one is going to corroborate any of this evidence because people are too scared."

What makes the Human Rights watch report so important is that it provides credible evidence that behaviour like Azizullah's is the norm rather than the exception. In one instance cited in the report, Afghan paramilitaries abducted two teenagers and drove nails through the feet of one. Another group gang-raped a 13-year-old boy.

On 24 January 2010, a band led by one Mullah Rahmatullah allegedly raided a house in northern Afghanistan. "There were five people, all armed. They came to my house and they tied my hands and my brother's hands. Then they raped my wife and my brother's wife," a family member told Human Rights Watch.

Nato's plans to raise militias has been controversial from the start. US General Dan McNeil, a former commander of the Nato mission to Afghanistan, said in 2008 that Nato had worked hard to disband militias and "we shouldn't seek to go back there."

Afghan officials have been equally critical and President Hamid Karzai only authorised the creation of a new raft of militias called Afghan Local Police under extreme pressure from Nato.

A Nato spokesman said it would evaluate the Human Rights Watch report and "take necessary steps".

News
peopleChildren leave in tears as Santa is caught smoking and drinking
Arts and Entertainment
A host of big name acts recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' in London on Saturday
musicCharity single tops chart
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall has become the eighth celebrity to leave Strictly Come Dancing
tv
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
News
i100
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin