A few months back, I argued in The Atlantic that a focus on short-term objectives in Afghanistan was ruining our ability to consider the long term consequences of our choices and actions. One of those short-term objectives—most recently explained by General Petraeus at his Congressional testimony this week—is to build up local security forces to drive out the Taliban. The desire, however understandable, to push half-thought out solutions can have disastrous consequences:
An Afghan warlord backed by US special forces faces persistent allegations that he launched a two-year spate of violence involving burglary, rape and murder of civilians, desecration of mosques and mutilation of corpses. Yet, despite repeated warnings about the atrocities Commander Azizullah is alleged to have committed, he has remained on the payroll of the US military as an “Afghan security guard”, a select band of mercenaries described by some as “the most effective fighting formation in Afghanistan”.
Further in the story, the Independent alleges this warlord also sexually abused boys—that he had his own private bacha bazi dungeon, partially financed by U.S. money. We do not know where this Azizullah is. The Independent never says. But how on earth can we sell our version of security as morally, socially, and religiously preferable to the Taliban when this is what we offer the Afghans?
Sadly, there are other cases of U.S.-backed local strongmen abusing the people they’re meant to protect. In Ghor province, which is administered by the Lithuanians, it seems the Afghan security forces are more of less throwing a continuing rape party.
IWPR has gathered evidence from provincial government officials, police and residents of Ghor, who report that numerous grave human rights abuses are being committed by militia forces which in theory are not even supposed to exist any more.
The abuses they are accused of include assault, coerced marriage and public beatings for alleged immoral behaviour.
Remind me again, how this is preferable to the Taliban? This is the inevitable consequence of our obsession with quick fixes and easy panaceas over considered, comprehensive solutions to the challenges we face. We do not plan for or monitor or control the people we empower, and in the process sow the seeds of our own defeat.