CIA-backed Afghan paramilitary groups operating with impunity are summarily executing civilians during botched nighttime raids and are responsible for the disappearances of suspects, a rights group said, underscoring such move as “possible war crimes.”
In a report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said U.S.-led peace talks to end the 18-year-old war have omitted addressing the fate of the Afghan special forces that work “as part of the covert operations of the Central Intelligence Agency.” The report suggests either disbanding them or bringing them under the control of the Defense Ministry. “These troops include Afghan strike forces who have been responsible for extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, indiscriminate airstrikes, attacks on medical facilities, and other violations of international humanitarian law, or the laws of war,” it said.
The CIA disputed the HRW report, saying many of the claims against Afghan militias were “likely false or exaggerated.” President Donald Trump ended negotiations with the Taliban over what he said was the insurgents’ unacceptable level of violence. The secretive militias, whose support from the CIA continues a tradition stemming from the Soviet-Afghan war of the 1980s, have long hunted the Taliban and are seen as an important tool as the war against the insurgents intensifies. But their rough tactics have long sparked controversy across Afghanistan. According to HRW and several U.N. reports, Afghan special operations units are now partly responsible for rising civilian deaths and rights abuses. They operate with seeming impunity under Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Security Directorate, and hold nondescript names like Unit 01 or Khost Protection Forces.