Thursday, September 11, 2014

Human Rights Watch - Just Don't Call It A Militia : Part 3

Afghan War History: The Growth of Abusive Militias in the North

Human Rights Watch

The northern provinces of Afghanistan have been beset for decades by armed groups associated with rival political and ethnic factions. Jamiat-i-Islami, Junbish-i-Mili, Ittihad-i-Islami, and Hezb-i-Islami have all been implicated in egregious laws-of-war violations, particularly during the civil war in the 1990s.[77] Security in the northeast has deteriorated rapidly since 2008, with a pronounced increase in insurgent attacks in Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar provinces in 2010.[78] Civilians pay a heavy price, caught between indiscriminate Taliban attacks, abusive militias, and increased operations by the Afghan and international armed forces.

As the threat by insurgent forces in the north increased in 2009, the NDS and other authorities, such as governors, began reactivating some of the militia networks that were powerful during the anti-Soviet resistance and civil war in a number of provinces, including Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar.[79] This re-armament was most strongly associated with Tajiks, and with the Jamiat-i-Islami networks. The NDS still has links with former Shura-e Nazar (“Supervisory Council,” formerly led by Ahmed Shah Massoud) networks and has primarily reactivated militias from these groups.

Clearly this partisan development could be potentially destabilizing (and may be connected to the revival of a number of Junbish militia in ethnic Uzbek areas during the same time period).[80] But the most problematic aspect of the rearmament by the NDS was that it involved providing military weaponry and funds without sufficient oversight, command, or control.[81] For example, a US State Department cable released by Wikileaks stated that, “[W]arlord Mir Alam Khan's Kunduz militia … is reportedly connected to the National Directorate of Security (NDS) but seems to operate without government guidance, command or control.”[82]

Some communities welcome additional security forces to compensate for the weakness of the police or army.[83] However, most of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the reactivation of militias was increasing abuses and ethnic rivalries, thereby undermining the goal of political stability.

The northeast is riven by ethnic and political tensions. Consequently, there is a risk that if one group perceives a rival group to be rearming it can have a domino effect, with other groups taking up arms to counter their rivals’ increased strength. This lends a political and ethnic dimension to the proliferation of armed groups that is distinct from the response to the increased insurgent threat.

When one community sees a rival community rearm, they may also turn to a rival network for assistance. For example, in January 2011, a group of around 100 elders from Kunduz visited Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim in Kabul to raise concerns about security. Fahim reportedly told them that he had instructed the former NDS head, Amrullah Saleh, and a regional strongman, Mir Alam (see below), to provide weapons to militias in order to “prevent a Taliban takeover.”[84] In this environment it becomes harder to distinguish whether increasing levels in violence are a product of heightened insurgent activity, additional international forces, or government-backed militia, or turf wars between irregular armed groups.

The Afghanistan NGO Security Office (ANSO) has charted the rise in activity by irregular armed groups in the northeast.

Militias in Kunduz

Kunduz province is ethnically diverse, with a mixture of ethnic Tajik, Uzbek, Pashtun, Arab, Baluch, Hazara and Turkmen communities.[85] The two most significant ethnicities are the Tajiks and Uzbeks, with two political parties, Jamiat-i Islami, primarily associated with Tajiks, and the predominantly Uzbek party, Junbish-i Mili, wielding considerable influence. Among Pashtuns, both Ittihad-i-Islami and Hezb-i-Islami have influence.

Kunduz was the focus of the most sustained insurgent campaign in the northeast in 2010, with the Taliban making inroads into every district of the province.[86] Insurgent forces conducted an assassination campaign against government officials. On October 8, 2010, the governor of Kunduz, Muhammad Omar, was killed when the mosque he was attending in neighboring Takhar province was bombed. No claim of responsibility was made.[87] The police chief of Kunduz, Abdul Rahman Sayedkhili, was killed on March 10, 2011, in a suicide attack claimed by the Taliban.[88] On May 28, 2011, the police commander of the northern region, Gen. Daud Daud, was killed in a suicide bomb attack. Daud was a well known national figure, and one of the most senior government officials to have been killed by the Taliban. The blast, in the governor’s compound in Takhar province, also killed three other Afghan officials and two German soldiers.[89] Daud was a prominent Northern Alliance commander during the 1990s.

The impunity with which militias associated with Mir Alam operate demonstrates the role that political connections play. Alam is a powerful Tajik commander associated with Jamiat[90]and reportedly has close connections with national officials, including Vice-President Mohammed Qasim Fahim.[91] 

Like other commanders in the area, Alam went through the flawed Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration process in the first years of the post-Taliban government, but is believed to have retained considerable weaponry.[92] Alam is related by marriage to the former regional commander of the NDS in the north, Gen. Mohammed Daoud Ibrahimi, a former Jamiat-i-Islami commander connected to militias in Kunduz, Takhar, and Baghlan, who was removed from his position in late 2010 or early 2011 but retains considerable influence.[93]

Alam is described in US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks as a “destabilizing” influence, closely connected to narcotics smuggling and armed groups:

The situation in Baghlan started to deteriorate after the June 2005 appointment of General Mir Alam as Provincial Chief of Police. Mir Alam is a Tajik, former Jihadi and former commander of 54th Division, affiliated to HNA [Hezbi-Naween Afghanistan] and still linked to various armed groups.[94]

Another US embassy cable concludes:

Mir Alam’s Kunduz militia—ethnically divisive, controlled by one man, grounded in contempt for DIAG [disarmament] and the rule of law—exemplifies a quick fix with dangerous implications: tactical gains at strategic cost.[95]

While government backing for militias seems to be primarily of former Jamiat networks, there has also been a resurgence of militias associated with non-Tajik ethnic groups.[96]

Several interviewees complained that the resurgence of the militias has legitimized the predatory behavior that used to characterize the mujahideen  forces. 

Many cited routine extortion as a major problem.

One government official said:

"We’ve had these arbakis for 30 years. Who were Gulbuddin, Massood, Dostum? All arbakis… But this is their way of making money, this is their habit, they are mujahideen. Their pockets were never filled. The problem is that most of these people are uneducated, and they have weapons in their hands, so they can do what they want." [97]

A resident of Kunduz told Human Rights Watch: “The government officials, the arbakis, they are all from same club, and they have drunk the blood of Afghan people for the past 30 years.”[98]

On August 1, 2011, the government issued an order for members of local militias in Khanabad district to surrender their weapons or face a military crackdown. Ten days after the order, 13 heavy weapons, such as rockets and missiles, had been surrendered.[99] Residents in Khandabad district expressed concern that the militias have been looting property, forcibly collecting taxes, and would not voluntarily surrender their weapons.[100] According to the district chief of police in Khanabad, some militia members who “have helped the government for the past two years and not committed crimes” will be allowed to join the Afghan Local Police.[101]

Khanabad District: Multiple Killings

Khanabad district lies to the east of Kunduz province, bordering Takhar. While the Taliban increased its infiltration into the area in 2009-10, it has less insurgent activity than many other parts of the province. The district is ethnically diverse, with a complex web of power and a myriad of small militias.[102] Fakir Mohammed, a local farmer, told Human Rights Watch that the area is lawless:

The police are very weak, they can’t do anything there. It’s mainly the local strongmen and warlords, they control everything there; the district police, the district security bosses. If they want to do anything they can.[103]

The district governor, Nesamudin  Nasher, says that there are hundreds of arbakis  in Khandabad district:

People come to me and complain about these arbakis, but I can do nothing about this. They collect ushr  [informal tax], take the daughters of the people, they do things against the wives of the people, they take their horses, sheep, anything.[104]

A cable from US embassy staff in the north, released by Wikileaks, quotes an NDS official noting that Khanabad militias are particularly out of control, where “some groupings were cooperating with both insurgents and GIRoA [the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan], changing their behavior opportunistically depending on their own interests.”[105]

The cases below are examples of militia-related abuses in Khanabad district.

Killings to Intimidate

“Commander” Nawid heads a militia with approximately 20 men in the town of Khanabad. His militia has been accused of several killings, widespread theft, and intimidation. According to local residents and government officials, Nawid has powerful connections to former police chief Mir Alam.[106]

In his three years as governor of the district, Nesahudin Nasher says that Nawid’s group has been responsible for most of the abuses: “There is a group led by person called Nawid, he’s doing everything. During my term he’s killed five people. His men are also robbing and stealing and taking money.”[107]

Gulbuddin:  Terrorist asswipe likes to throw acid on women
Mirwais Jan, 31, was allegedly killed by Nawid and several armed men on August 14, 2010.[108] Mirwais was working as a guard for a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the neighboring province of Takhar. He was engaged to be married. 

His brother, Agha Padar, told Human Rights Watch that Jan had just returned home and was washing in the river outside his house:

Five people came with weapons. Two of them, Nawid and Rakim, shot him. When my brother saw them he knew that they were there to kill them and he tried to escape. But one of them blocked the way and they shot at him from two directions. Lots of villagers saw them kill him, but they don’t care. [109]

Agha Padar says that he believes his brother was killed because he had been refusing the demands of Nawid and his men to join them. When he refused to join the militia, “They were putting pressure on my brother. They said that because he had a good salary, he should buy them machineguns and rockets.”[110]

Padar, who is a farmer, says that Nawid’s men also tried to take money from him and other local people: “It’s not just me that they steal from, they take money from shoemakers, from tailors, from everyone.”[111]

Nawid is reportedly backed by Mir Alam. District Governor Nasher said Alam intervened to prevent Nawid’s arrest:

A few months ago Nawid killed the brother of Agha Padar, who came and complained to me. I ordered the chief of police to arrest him [Nawid]. But when he tried to arrest him, Mir Alam called him to stop him. So I went to see the governor and asked him, “Who is district governor, me or Mir Alam?”[112]

Agha Padar also blames Alam for the failure to arrest Nawid. Padar says that because of his attempts to ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted, he has come under attack:

Right after the murder of my brother, when the government didn’t do anything, he [Nawid] started this. Almost every night he came with his men, firing 50 rounds of bullets. It’s harassment to send me away from the area, to show that he has won…. They are more confident now.[113]

The threats against the family of Agha Padar have continued, but Human Rights Watch is not aware of any action by authorities in the case.[114] Agha Padar requested assistance from the local NDS office in Khanabad district and was told that they would soon have a solution. When Human Rights Watch asked the local NDS chief, General Nemat, what this solution might be, he said that he hoped to soon bring these militias under the control of the Afghan Local Police. He said it would be up to the community to decide whether Nawid would be included in the ALP, but that Ministry of Interior guidelines were clear about people who have questionable backgrounds.[115]
Killing in Khanabad Bazaar

On August 22, 2009, four men were killed and another wounded by Nawid’s militia.[116] Ahmadullah and his cousin Naimatullah, who were both around 20 years old, were at a barber shop in Khanabad city. According to Ahmadullah’s father, Munir Noor Alam, a group of six armed men arrived at the barber shop. 

According to a family member interviewed by Human Rights Watch, three men, Nawid, Pervez, and Hasibullah, went into the barber shop and opened fire, while the three others stood guard.[117] Niamatullah and Ahmatullah were killed, as was a shopkeeper, Kamaluddin, son of Serajuddin. One of Nawid’s men, Hasibullah, was killed, allegedly in error, and a bystander, Abdul Haq, was wounded.

There were many witnesses to the killings. One resident, Fakir Mohammad, told Human Rights Watch:

This happened in the day in Khanabad bazaar, 500 meters from the office of the police chief. The police didn’t bother to go and see what happened, but there was loud gunfire. Everyone saw. Everyone knew the killers.[118]

Munir Noor Alam told Human Rights Watch that he believes a family with whom he had a longstanding dispute had hired a local militia to carry out the killings.

"The main job of this group is to take money from other people, and they kill people. I assume that they got money from my rivals. We have personal animosity in the area.… They took money from my rivals and they came and killed my son and his cousin."[119]

Munir Noor Alam said that there is an arrest warrant out for the people who carried out the killings, but no action has been taken. He complained to the local chief of police, but said he was told, “They are arbakis, so we can’t do anything against them.  If we did there would be an armed clash.” Munir Noor Alam is a prosecutor in Kunduz: “No one has helped me, and I work for the government, so what about the other people? Who will listen to them?” [120]

Khanabad District Governor Nasher told Human Rights Watch, “There was no reason for these killings, no reason.” He said that his request to the local security authorities to arrest those responsible was ignored.[121]

When interviewed in January 2011, the NDS chief in Khanabad, General Nemat, confirmed that Nawid had not been arrested because of his close relations with the provincial police chief, Abdul Rahman Sayyedkhili. He said that Nawid and his 20-30 men had been used in operations against the Taliban in Char Dara district in 2010. Nawid was called the “Char Dara conqueror” by the chief of police.[122] Sayyedkhili was killed in March 2011.

When Human Rights Watch raised concerns about the militia abuses in an interview with Mir Alam, he said he had no involvement with militias:

Whoever says that I have arbakis and supporting them is completely wrong. I am not denying that I was not a jihadi commander, but all people under my command have been disarmed through the DDR and DAIG process.[123]

The introduction of the Afghan Local Police in Kunduz was particularly sensitive because of concerns among some government and international military officials about the strength of Shura-e Nazar in the security forces that might undermine efforts to balance the program.[124]

International military officials told Human Rights Watch that the late police chief of Kunduz was a “thorn in their side” because he was trying to turn ALP into “something it shouldn’t be.” “He’s also connected to Khan Mohammad Khan, [the former head of the Afghan Local Police]. It’s a serious problem.”[125] 

Mohammad Khan was removed as the head of the Afghan Local Police in March 2011.[126]

Imam Sahib District.

Imam Sahib district in the northern part of Kunduz province shares a border with Tajikistan, and is an important cross-border smuggling route for narcotics, alcohol, and weapons.[127]

The ethnic Uzbek Ibrahimi family dominates the district. Abdul Latif Ibrahimi, a former governor of Faryab and Takhar, was governor of Kunduz from 2002-2004. His brother, Haji Raouf Ibrahimi, was elected speaker of the lower house of parliament in February 2011, having previously been a member of parliament until the 2010 elections and before that a well-known Hezb-i-Islami commander who fought Soviet occupation.[128] Another brother, Qayyum Ibrahimi, is the district police chief of Imam Sahib.[129]

A number of powerful militias operate in the district, most of whom are assumed to be connected to the Ibrahimis.[130] They operate with impunity, as the case below illustrates.

On January 24, 2010, the local mullah, Rahmatullah, along with sub-commander Zulmai (a relative of Commander Sarbaz who controls militias in several villages), and three other armed men, went to the home of two sisters-in-law in the village of Baika. The men gang raped the two women at gunpoint, having tied up their husbands.[131] Habibullah S. [pseudonym], husband of one of the women, told Human Rights Watch:

There were five people, all armed. They came to my house and they tied my hands and my brother’s hands. Then they raped my wife and my brother’s wife. I was with my brother, but we had no firearms. So we could not do anything. If I had been armed I could have fought them, I could have fought them to the end of my life. They would have killed me but it would have been worth it.[132]

Habibullah S. said their wives had been harassed by Rahmatullah in the weeks before the gang rapes. He explained:

The mullah was behind it. Before this three times the mullah came to my house, with bad intentions, to do something to our wives. Our wives said, “We don’t want any men here, why are you coming?” After the last time, my wife went to the mosque, took hold of his clothes with other people there, and told him not to come again. After that he became so angry with us that he sent these men to us.[133]

A local human rights investigator confirmed the account. He told Human Rights Watch that the mullah had reportedly told the man and his brother that they should “control their wives.”[134]

On January 25, 2010, the authorities arrested Rahmatullah and charged him only with illegal entry.[135] He was found guilty by a primary court on March 10, 2010, and sentenced to six months, of which he served three.[136]

The other four assailants were never arrested. Habibullah S., says that they are untouchable:

They have powerful connections, that’s why they are still walking freely in the district.... They are part of the arbaki. There are lots of arbakis in the villages, and they are all thieves. They are involved in robbery, in stealing, sometimes they take money from your pocket, and say if you complain I will kill you…. There are no laws, no rules. They have weapons, they can kill people, they can go into houses and do anything to you.[137]

Kunduz District

Numerous militias operate in Kunduz district, many with NDS support. One elder, Commander Gul Afghan, explained the genesis of NDS involvement:

The entire district was under the control of a Taliban commander Mawlawi Zahir. The head of the NDS [Gen. Daud Ibrahimi] said you have to ask him [Zahir] to leave. We said okay but you need to provide security for us, otherwise the Taliban gives us security. The NDS chief said, I promise. After that we, the elders, we appointed 10 people in every district, they were armed. Then we asked Mawlawi Zahir to leave. He knew that although he had 200 armed men, he knew that the community didn’t support him, so he left.[138]

Gul Afghan says that soon after, “The NDS sent arbakis to us. They started to collect ushr from us.”[139] Haji Akbar, an elder and former teacher from Kanam village, told Human Rights Watch that most of the arbakis are supported by Mir Alam and the NDS, and that the rival groups frequently clash.[140]  

He said: "They came yesterday. It is harvest time. They took from us by force. This is the main problem with the arbakis. They are collecting ushr [informal tax] from us. We have complained to the government, but nothing happens. Arbakis should not collect ushr. When they come to collect ushr they do it with force, with guns. They are so brutal. We have cases where they have broken the heads and legs of people.  These are the people of Mir Alam."[141]

Akbar expressed frustration with Mir Alam’s strength and reach:

Around me Mir Alam’s people are powerful. There’s also a small group established by the NDS and the governor, but they are small compared to Mir Alam. Even the chief of police can’t do anything against them.

Haji Akbar along with others from several districts raised the harassment of taxi drivers by the militia:

One of the biggest problems is for taxi drivers when they take people from the city to the village. [The militia] tell the drivers to leave their passengers here and take them [the militia] to another village. When they refuse, they are beaten.[142]

The practice of militias demanding ushr was common in the 1990s when the powerful warlords and mujahideen commanders ruled pockets of the country in a semi-feudalistic manner. Militia commanders have often attempted to present themselves as protectors of the community, thus deserving this compensation. Interviews carried out by Human Rights Watch suggest that communities often see this practice by militias as criminal, enriching the militia and their patron or commander. Haji Akbar said:

Taking one tenth of the people’s incomes is a religious thing, it goes to the poor people. We know who the poor people in our community are. We could help them with this. But they [arbakis] collect one tenth for themselves, not the poor, and they take extra that they say is for being soldiers. But they are bad people.[143]

Commander Gul Afghan, who initially welcomed NDS support, told Human Rights Watch that he was so frustrated with extortion by arbakis that he wanted to set up his own defense force to protect the community from them, rather than the Taliban:

I went one week ago to appoint a community commander from two villages to control 50 villages [with arbakis]. We are firm in our decision. If the arbakis disturb us again, it is my personal order to resist, to fire on the arbakis.[144]

Militias and Sexual Predation

Rape as a weapon of war has been strongly associated with militias, particularly during the civil war in the 1990s.[145] Militias have continued to be implicated in sexual violence, particularly gang rape. They have also have used threats to forcibly obtain women and girls, which can be hard for powerless families to resist. An elder told Human Rights Watch:

The most powerful ones will sometimes select a girl and tell the family that they want to marry her. For families there are only two choices: give the girl, or leave the area and go to Pakistan or Iran.[146]

In 2011, a 12-year-old girl was raped in her home by men wearing Afghan army uniforms in Qulbars area, near the capital Taluqan, Takhar province. According to a local government official, who wished to remain anonymous, residents in Taluqan believe that “arbakis” dressed in uniforms were involved in the incident.[147] At this writing, no arrests have been made.[148]

Militia members have also been responsible for the sexual abuse of boys, including commanders “employing” boys in order to use them for sex.[149] During Human Rights Watch interviews about militia abuses, few interviewees volunteered information unprompted about sexual abuse, though when asked all acknowledged that it was happening. 

A UN official told Human Rights Watch, “In the south and southeast most boys recruited under the age of 18 are recruited for sexual purposes, whether it’s by the police or by arbaki.  Pederasty is everywhere.”[150]

There is a separate but related type of abuse known as bachabazi  (literally, “boy play”). Bachabazi  involves wealthy or powerful “commanders” keeping boys to be dressed up as girls and to dance, which may often entail sexual abuse.[151] This practice is most prevalent in the north, where it is strongly associated with militias and the state security forces.[152]

Haji Akbar from Kunduz said:

Almost everyone creates this problem for boys…. Out of 100, 80 percent of them are doing bachabazi, maybe 20 percent don’t. Because the commanders do this, the rest do it.[153]

Commander Mohammad Gul Aghan, also from Kunduz district, said:

Sometimes it [bachabazi] is voluntary, sometimes not. Sometimes they give money to the family or to the boy, and they give clothing or weapons. Today it’s not as big as in the past, in the jihad time. Now it is only half of the bad people who are doing this.[154]

Perpetrators of sexual abuse of boys are rarely prosecuted, perhaps in part because of taboos around the issue, but primarily because the perpetrators are often members of powerful militias or have the protection of the state security forces.

The Afghan government is on the UN’s blacklist for child recruitment into the armed forces. In January 2011, it agreed to an action plan with the UN to monitor and report on children associated with the national security forces, with a view to getting delisted. Under the plan it has agreed to take steps to prevent child recruitment and sexual abuse by all government security forces, and other combatants. It also has agreed to abide by UN Security Council resolutions condemning the recruitment and use of children, and rape and other sexual violence against children and killing and maiming of children in situations of conflict.[155].


[77] Junbish-e Milli-yi Islami-yi Afghanistan (“Junbish”), a predominately Uzbek and Turkmen militia, based in northern Afghanistan, formerly led by Abdul Rashid Dostum and comprised of forces from the former Soviet-backed Afghan army and various mujahideen armed groups from the north of the country.Ittihad-i-Islami Bara-yiAzadi Afghanistan (hereafter “Ittihad”) is a predominately Pashtun faction headed by Abdul Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf (the former governor of Kunduz). Hezb-i-Islami (Gulbuddin) is a predominately Pashtun faction under the command of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. See generally, Human Rights Watch, Blood Stained Hands - Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity, July 2005, (multiple references; for culpability of Jamiat and Junbish see pp. 119-122). See also, The Afghanistan Justice Project, Casting Shadows: War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: 1978-2001,2005 (multiple references, including Jamiat abuses, pp. 65-70; Junbish abuses, pp.100-110), (accessed January 9, 2011).

[78] In recent years a number of districts have moved from a low risk categorization to medium or high risk by organizations like the UN and the Afghanistan NGO Security office (ANSO). Unpublished UN security assessment, on file with Human Rights Watch. Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO), “ANSO Quarterly Data Report Q.2 2010,” July 2010, p.7,; “ANSO Quarterly Data Report Q.4 2010,” January 2011,

[79] Human Rights Watch interview with UN official, Kabul, August 19, 2009, Human Rights Watch interview with Nic Lee, director, Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, Kabul, September 28, 2010, and with local journalist, Kunduz, October 19, 2010.

[80] The influence of Junbish has waned in recent years, and overt links with senior government officials are less clear. Human Rights Watch interview with Antonio Giustozzi, researcher and author, London, February 1, 2011. Individual Uzbek commanders in Kunduz and Takhar have reactivated militias to fight recent Taliban infiltration. The degree of  government support is unclear. Human Rights Watch interview with Cristoph Reuter, journalist and writer, Kabul, September 22, 2010.

[81] Human Rights Watch interviews with security analyst, Kabul, February 15, 2011.

[82] Extract from a US Embassy cable 09 KABUL3661, released by Wikileaks, Extract from: “Unconventional Security Forces – What’s Out There?” Cable Date: November 12, 2009. Released by Wikileaks, January 24, 2011, (accessed March 24, 2011).

[83]For instance, observers suggest that amilitia of a Turkmen commander called NabiGichi operating in Qala-e Zal district in the north of the province was responsible for holding back Taliban incursions, generating popular support among some fellow Turkmens.

[84]Human Rights Watch telephone interview with local journalist, February 23, 2011.

[85] Kunduz is predominantly a Tajik/Uzbek dominated province, but significant “Pashtunization” took place as a deliberate government policy in several waves from the 1920s. See Conrad Schetter, Rainer Glassner, and Masood Karokhai, “Beyond Warlordism – the Local Security Architecture in Afghanistan,’ InternationalePolitik und Gesellschaft, September 2007, p. 144, (accessed December 24, 2010). Antonio Giustozzi and Christoph Reuter, “The Northern Front – The Afghan Insurgency Spreading Beyond the Pashtuns,” May 2010, Afghan Analysts Network, p. 2, (accessed January 6, 2011).

[86] Char Dara, Dasht-i-Archi, and Imam Sahib. Human Rights Watch interview with local journalist, Kunduz, October 19, 2010, and with local government official, Kunduz, October 21, 2010. In early 2011, there were signs that some government control had been restored in several districts. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with local journalist, Kunduz, February 23, 2011.

[87]“Head of Afghanistan’s Kunduz province killed in bombing,” BBC News, October 8, 2010, (accessed December 23, 2010).

[88] “Afghan suicide blast kills Kunduz police chief,” BBC News, March 10, 2011, (accessed April 24, 2011). “Taliban claim killing of Afghan police chief,” Daily Times online, March 12, 2011, (accessed April 24, 2011).

[89] Ben Farmer, “General Daud Daud and at least two German soldiers killed by suicide bomb,” The Telegraph, May 28, 2011, (accessed May 30, 2011).

[90] Susanne Koelbl, “'Every Man for Himself' - Afghan Militias Take on Taliban,” Der Speigel, February 3, 2010,1518,680965-2,99.html (accessed December 24, 2010).

[91] Human Rights Watch interviews with several residents of Khanabad district, Kunduz, October 20-21, 2010, and with the district governor, Nesamudin Nasher, Kunduz, October 22, 2010.

[92] Alam relinquished some weapons in June 2005,when he was appointed police chief of Baghlan province. Human Rights Watch interview with human rights official, Kunduz, October 20, 2010. See also, “Three former Jihadi Commanders Surrender Arms,” Pajhwok Afghan News, June 25, 2005, (accessed January 6, 2011).

[93] Koelbl, “'Every Man for Himself' - Afghan Militias Take on Taliban,” Der Speigel, February 3, 2010., Human Rights Watch interview with international official, Kabul, February 24, 2011, and regional journalist, Kunduz, October 19, 2010.

[94] Extract from “Kunduz Politics Of Corruption In The Baghlan Police Forces,” US Embassy Cable, Reference 05KABUL5181, Dated December 20, 2005, released by Wikileaks, January 27, 2011, (accessed February 2, 2011).

[95] Extract from US Embassy Cable 09KABUL3661, released by Wikileaks: “Unconventional Forces – What’s out there,” Cable date, November 12, 2009, Cable Released, January 24, 2011. (accessed March 24, 2011).

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Nic Lee, director, Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, Kabul, September 28, 2010, and Human Rights Watch interview with human rights official, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with government official, Kunduz, October 2010.

[98] Human Rights Watch interview with Fakir Mohammad, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[99]Human Rights Watch interview with District Chief of Police, Khanabad district, August 9, 2011.

[100]Human Rights Watch interviews with three residents who wished to remain anonymous, Khanabad district, August 9, 2011.

[101]Human Rights Watch interview with Sufi Habib, District Chief of Police, Khanabad district, August 9, 2011.

[102] The district governor of Khanabad, Nesamudin Nasher, told Human Rights Watch that there are 700-800 militia membersin Khanabad district. Human Rights Watch could not independently confirm this figure. Human Rights Watch interview with Nesamudin Nasher, District Governor of Khanabad, Kunduz, October 22, 2010.

[103]Human Rights Watch interview with Fakir Mohammad, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[104]Human Rights Watch interview with Nesamudin Nasher, District Governor of Khanabad, Kunduz, October 22, 2010.Ushr in Islam is a form of zakat  (charity giving obligatory on Muslims), generally on agricultural produce.

[105] US Embassy cable “Militias in Kunduz: A tale of two districts,” released by Wikileaks.Document ID: 10KABUL12. Document date: January 3, 2010. Release date, January 24, 2011, (accessed April 24, 2011).

[106] Human Rights Watch interviews with Kunduz residents, and a local journalist, Kunduz, February 23, 2010.

[107]Human Rights Watch interview with Nesamudin Nasher, District Governor of Khanabad, Kunduz, October 22, 2010.

[108]Human Rights Watch interview with Agha Padar, brother of Mirwais, Kunduz city, October 21, 2010.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Ibid.

[112]Human Rights Watch interview with Nesamudin Nasher, District Governor of Khanabad, Kunduz, October 22, 2010.

[113]Human Rights Watch interview with Agha Padar, brother of Mirwais, Kunduz city, October 21, 2010.


[115] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with General Nemat, Khanabad district NDS chief, January 23, 2011, and April 25, 2011.

[116] Human Rights Watch interview with Munir Noor Alam, Kunduz, October 21, 2010, and Nesamudin Nasher, District Governor of Khanabad, Kunduz, October 22, 2010.

[117] Those who stood guard were named by Munirnoor Alam as Nasi, son of Karim, Mir Agha, son of Haji Yasouf, and Lange Yamar. Human Rights Watch interview with Munir Noor Alam, Kunduz, October 21, 2010.

[118]Human Rights Watch interview with Fakir Mohammad, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[119] Human Rights Watch interview with Munir Noor Alam, Kunduz, October 21, 2010.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Human Rights Watch interview with Nesamudin Nasher, District Governor of Khanabad, Kunduz, October 22, 2010.

[122] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with General Nemat, Khanabad district NDS chief, January 23, 2011.

[123] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mir Alam, March 31, 2011.

[124]Human Rights Watch interview with international officials, Kabul, February 22, 2011. (It was noteworthy that both the president and the minister of interior paid visits to the province in January and February 2011, to make promises about bringing militias under control. Human Rights Watch interview with local journalist, February 23, 2011).

[125]Human Rights Watch interview with international officials, Kabul, February 22, 2011.

[126] Khan Mohammad Khan was made an advisor in the counter-narcotics department. He was replaced by Ali Shah Ahmadzai. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with senior police official, April 23, 2011.

[127] Gul Ramin, “Insurgents Taking Charge in Kunduz - Once one of the most stable provinces, parts of Kunduz are falling under Taleban control,” Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), October 20, 2009, (accessed January 7, 2011).

[128] Hamid Shalizi, “Afghan parliament elects ex-warlord as speaker,” Reuters, February 27, 2011. (accessed April 24, 2011).

[129] There is also a powerful Ibrahimi in Kabul as Deputy Minister of Haj, and another relative is said to exercise control over water supply. Politically the Ibrahimis have divided their loyalties to strategic effect, with association at various times to Hezb-i-Islami, JunbishiMilli, and Jamiat-iIslami (in particular Ahmed Shah Massoud). Human Rights Watch interviews with a local journalist and human rights officials, Kunduz, October 2010. For more on the power of the Ibrahimis, see Conrad Schetter, Rainer Glassner, and Masood Karokhail, “Beyond Warlordism – the Local Security Architecture in Afghanistan,” InternationalePolitik und Gesellschaft, September 2007, p.144. (accessed December 24, 2010).

[130] There are also a number of militias associated with Sufi Manan, the mayor of Imam Sahib, who has associations with Hezb-i-Islami, Junbish, and Jamiat. Human Rights Watch with local journalist, Kunduz, October 19, 2010 and January 23, 2011. Human Rights Watch interview with Christoph Reuter, journalist and writer, Kabul, September 22, 2010.See also Conrad Schetter and Rainer Glassner in “From Fragile State to Functioning State: Pathways to Democratic Transformation in Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, and Afghanistan.” Transaction Publisher, Berlin, 2009, pp. 146-7. Chapter “Neither Functioning, Nor Failing of the State – Seeing Violence in Afghanistan from Local Perspectives” available here:,” (accessed January 5, 2011).

[131] Human Rights Watch interviews with the husband of one of the rape victims, Kunduz, October 21, 2010, and with officials from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[132]Human Rights Watch interview with Habibullah S. (pseudonym) Kunduz, October 21, 2010.

[133] Ibid.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with local human rights investigator, Kunduz, October 19, 2010.

[135] Wahidullah, “A Mullah Imam Arrested for Raping Two Women” Pajhwok Afghan News, January 27, 2010, (accessed December 23, 2010).

[136] Human Rights Watch telephone call to prosecutor Abdul Farid Baqi, Kunduz provincial prosecutor’s office. December 13, 2010.

[137]Human Rights Watch interview with Habibullah, Kunduz, October 21, 2010.

[138]Human Rights Watch interview with Commander Mohammad Gul Afghan, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[139] Ibid.

[140] According to Haji Akbar: “Around me Mir Allam’s people are powerful. There’s also a small group established by the NDS and the governor, but they are small compared to Mir Allam. Even chief of police can’t do anything against them. In Aktash there’s militia with Mohammad Omar, who is supported by the NDS. There is every day fighting between Mohammad Omar and Mir Allam. In Sayed Hussein there is commander Shukur, who is also with Mir Allam.”Human Rights Watch interview with Haji Akbar, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[141]Human Rights Watch interview with Haji Akbar, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[142]Human Rights Watch interview with an unnamed taxi driver from Chardara district, and with Haji Akbar and Commander Mohammad Gul Afghan, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[143]Human Rights Watch interview, Haji Akbar, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[144] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander Mohammad Gul Afghan, Kunduz, October 20, 2010. Human Rights Watch learned that Gul Afghan was recruited as an ALP commander in February 2011.List of ALP commanders on file with Human Rights Watch.

[145]See, e.g., UNAMA, Silence ifViolence: End the Abuse of Violence against Women, July 8, 2009,; Zarghuna Kargar, “Facing Upto Rape in Afghanistan,” Washington Post, September 11, 2008 (accessed June 15, 2011), (accessed June 15, 2011).

[146]Human Rights Watch interview with Haji Akbar, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[147] Human Rights Watch has not confirmed that the men were members of the Afghan National Army. Sometimes arbaki members wear uniforms of the security forces, either because they are former members, or because they have purchased the uniforms, which are easily available on the black market.

[148] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with local government official from Takhar province, June 5, 2011. Human Rights Watch interview with Sorraya Sobhrang, Commissioner, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Kabul, June 20, 2011.

[149] Human Rights Watch interviews with elders, Kunduz, October 20-21, 2010, and telephone interview with UN official, March 8, 2011.

[150]Human Rights Watch telephone interview with UN official, March 8, 2011.

[151] Human Rights Watch interviews with various human rights officials and analysts, 2008-2010. See “UN envoy urges protection of children in armed conflict,” United Nations Radio, March 2, 2010, (accessed January 13, 2011).

[152]Yaqub Ibrahimi, “The Dancing Boys of the North,” Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), October 10, 2007, January 10, 2011).

[153]Human Rights Watch interview with Haji Akbar, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[154] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander Mohammad Gul Afghan, Kunduz, October 20, 2010.

[155] “Action Plan between The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting regarding Children associated with National Security Forces in Afghanistan,” Signed January 9, 2011 (on file with Human Rights Watch). Security Council resolutions 1261 (1999), 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), as noted in the Action Plan.

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