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Atrocities Pile Up for CIA-Backed Afghan Paramilitary Forces
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=57099"><span class="small">Emran Feroz, Foreign Policy</span></a>   
Thursday, 19 November 2020 09:23

Feroz writes: "Members of a CIA-backed paramilitary group have allegedly killed some 14 civilians during raids in Afghanistan's restive Khost province in the past month."

The children of the radio journalist Rahim Sekander display a photo of him in their home in Khost on Oct. 27. (photo: Foreign Policy)
The children of the radio journalist Rahim Sekander display a photo of him in their home in Khost on Oct. 27. (photo: Foreign Policy)

Atrocities Pile Up for CIA-Backed Afghan Paramilitary Forces

By Emran Feroz, Foreign Policy

19 November 20

Many Afghans want the groups disbanded when the United States withdraws.

embers of a CIA-backed paramilitary group have allegedly killed some 14 civilians during raids in Afghanistan’s restive Khost province in the past month, in one case bursting into the home of a man in his 40s, Muhammad Shawkat, dragging him into the street, and shooting him dead for no apparent reason, according to interviews with several residents of the area.

At least one woman was among the dead, the residents said. They declined to be identified in describing the killings because they feared retribution from the group, known as the Khost Protection Force (KPF). Word of the killings also spread on social media in the past month.

The KPF controls much of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan, one of the more volatile parts of the country. The CIA established the force in the first days of the war in Afghanistan in late 2001, drawing on fighters from local Pashtun tribes for its membership. Nineteen years later, CIA operatives continue to train and arm the KPF, though it has been implicated repeatedly in atrocities against civilians, including torture and killing, according to human rights groups.

As the United States moves toward a total withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, many residents fear that the KPF and other CIA-backed paramilitary groups are stepping up their attacks to assert themselves across the country.

“Those who attacked us killed him brutally without any reason. They are violent criminals,” one of Shawkat’s relatives said in an interview. He said KPF forces raided the home in mid-October and killed eight other civilians in similar operations that day.

“Shawkat was not a member of any terrorist group. He was just a normal Afghan who worked in the city,” said a resident of Khost’s Lakan area, where Shawkat lived. “You cannot do much if something like that happens—just hope that they won’t come after you,” the resident added. He said the KPF has come to operate with impunity because of its close ties to U.S. forces.

The KPF operates independently of the Afghan National Army and often conducts joint operations with U.S. forces. While most regular Afghan soldiers are poorly equipped, KPF members are armed with modern weapons. In addition to raids and patrols, they also track targets for U.S. drone strikes.

The CIA has blanketed Khost with surveillance equipment, posting reconnaissance balloons and listening antennas across the province.

Some two weeks after the raids, Taliban forces attacked a KPF convoy in the region, according to Hazrat Wali Sabir, a resident of the area. In response, the paramilitary group launched another series of attacks, according to residents, killing five civilians. Sabir said one of the victims was Mohammad Amin, the son of former Afghan parliament member Amir Khan Sabarai. The raids took place in several different villages across the district.

Reporters and human rights groups in the region have also been targeted in recent months, including Rahim Sekander, a local radio journalist who frequently spoke out against rights abuses. Sekander was detained in August by the National Directorate of Security, an Afghan intelligence service that works closely with the KPF and is also funded by the United States. The intelligence agency, staffed largely by officers from its brutal Soviet-era predecessor, KhAD, has also become known for attacks on civilians and government critics.

Sekander, who used his social media platform to call out abuses perpetrated by both the Taliban and the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani, has been held without trial since August. Specifically, Sekander has criticized the aerial bombardments that killed civilians and the violent night raids carried out by the KPF and other CIA-backed units operating throughout the country. These attacks on civilians have often had the effect of fueling militancy. your social media marketing partner