A secret British plan to build military training camps for former Taliban fighters in Helmand has sent Afghan-UK relations to an all-time low, say officials.
Kabul had no knowledge of attempts to persuade fighters to switch sides and train to fight in local militias until the plan was exposed last December, they said.
Mervyn Patterson, a United Nations political officer, and Michael Semple, deputy head of the European Union mission in Afghanistan, who were in the team, were ordered to leave the country on December 25 for “threatening national security”.
A US-funded militia in the Afghan province of Helmand is to be expanded, provincial governor Golab Mangal says.
Mr Mangal told BBC Pashto that local armed groups of civilians were an important weapon in the struggle against the Taliban.
About 800 armed men are now being directly funded by the US in Helmand province, which makes them a larger force than the official police.
Afghanistan’s government bristled Monday over allegedly secret British plans to set up camps to train anti-Taliban militias.
Officials in Kabul had no official comment, but they told The Financial Times they had no prior knowledge of the reported plan to set up camps in the Helmand province of Afghanistan to provide both military and vocational training for as many as 2,000 former Taliban fighters.
Down a back road, past old, still-active minefields and blown-out Soviet tanks, US military officials are trying to bring former insurgents back into the fold of the Afghan government.
The US official who runs the program calls it “tactical detoxifying” – offering captured former foot soldiers a skill that could help them make a legal living once they are released. Since March, the Parwan Detention Center at Bagram Air Base near Kabul has offered beekeeping workshops, language labs, and tailoring classes.
Anyway, this is why reading news out of Afghanistan these days feels like traveling through a time warp. All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.