Human Rights Watch said on Oct. 31 that US Central Intelligence Agency-backed Afghan forces have committed summary executions, disappearances, attacks on medical facilities, and other “grave” offenses. These paramilitary forces are officially under the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), but have been recruited, trained, equipped and overseen by the CIA. The CIA provides logistical support, as well as intelligence and surveillance for targeting during “kill-or-capture” operations. US special forces personnel, usually Army Rangers, often are deployed alongside the paramilitary forces.
US military officials want to retain these forces to counter al-Qaeda and ISIS. However, abuses by these forces, as well as coordinated “indiscriminate” air-strikes, have become “a daily fact of life for many communities” in Afghanistan. In its report, Human Rights Watch documented 14 cases between 2017 and mid-2019 in which these forces committed serious abuses. Most often, the targeting of non-comabatants is the result of mistaken identity, poor intelligence, or political rivalries.
As noted in the report:
Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) officials and their US counterparts contend that night raids backed by air operations are necessary in a war in which insurgent forces deploy among the civilian population. But Taliban forces unlawfully putting civilians at risk does not justify Afghan and US military operations that cause indiscriminate or disproportionate loss of civilian life, nor attacks on medical facilities. The deliberate killing of civilians or combatants in custody is never lawful.
Among other recommendations, Human Rights Watch suggested that the Afghan government immediately disarm and disband pro-government militias and that the government should cooperate with investigations into these allegations. Human Rights Watch recommended that the US clarify its responsibility for operations of the Afghan paramilitary forces, as well as comply with international humanitarian law to protect civilians from attack.
From Jurist, Nov. 1. Used with permission.