Friday, October 21, 2011

STRATFOR: Reflections on the Iranian Assassination Plot

A hard look at just what the U.S. and allies are up to on Iran invasion

By Scott Stewart

On Oct. 11, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that two men had been charged in New York with taking part in a plot directed by the Iranian Quds Force to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, on U.S. soil.

    Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri face numerous charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives), conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national borders and conspiracy to murder a foreign official. Arbabsiar, who was arrested Sept. 29 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, is a U.S. citizen with both Iranian and U.S. passports. Shakuri, who remains at large, allegedly is a senior officer in Iran’s Quds Force, a special unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) believed to promote military and terrorist activities abroad. 

Between May and July, Arbabsiar, who lives in the United States, allegedly traveled several times to Mexico, where he met with a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confidential informant who was posing as an associate of the Mexican Los Zetas cartel. The criminal complaint charges that Arbabsiar attempted to hire the DEA source and his purported accomplices to kill the ambassador. Arbabsiar’s Iranian contacts allegedly wired two separate payments totaling $100,000 in August into an FBI-controlled bank account in the United States, with Shakuri’s approval, as a down payment to the DEA source for the killing (the agreed-upon total price was $1.5 million).

    Much has been written about the Arbabsiar case, both by those who believe the U.S. government’s case is valid and by those who doubt the facts laid out in the criminal complaint. However, as we have watched this case unfold, along with the media coverage surrounding it, it has occurred to us that there are two aspects of the case that we think merit more discussion. The first is that, as history has shown, it is not unusual for Iran to employ unconventional assassins in plots inside the United States. Second, while the DEA informant was reportedly posing as a member of Los Zetas, we do not believe the case proves any sort of increase in the terrorist threat emanating from the United States’ southern border.


Unconventional Assassins


    One argument that has appeared in media coverage and has cast doubt on the validity of the U.S. government’s case is the alleged use by the Quds Force of Arbabsiar, an unemployed used car salesman, as its interlocutor. The criminal complaint states that Arbabsiar was recruited by his cousin, Abdul Reza Shahlai, a senior Quds Force commander, in spring 2011 and then handled by Shakuri, who is Shahlai’s deputy. The complaint also alleges that, initially, Arbabsiar was tasked with finding someone to kidnap al-Jubeir, but at some unspecified point the objective of the plot turned from kidnapping to murder. After his arrest, Arbabsiar told the agents who interviewed him that he was chosen for the mission because of his business interests and contacts in the United States and Mexico and that he told his cousin that he knew individuals involved in the narcotics trade. Shahlai then allegedly tasked Arbabsiar to attempt to hire some of his narco contacts for the kidnapping mission since Shahlai believed that people involved in the narcotics trade would be willing to undertake illegal activities, such as kidnapping, for money. 

Iran Quds Forces
It is important to recognize that Arbabsiar was not just a random used car salesman selected for this mission. He is purportedly the cousin of a senior Quds Force officer and was in Iran talking to his cousin when he was recruited. According to some interviews appearing in the media, Arbabsiar had decided to leave the United States and return permanently to Iran, but, as a naturalized U.S. citizen, he could have been seen as useful by the Quds Force for his ability to freely travel to the United States. Arbabsiar also was likely enticed by the money he could make working for the Quds Force — money that could have been useful in helping him re-establish himself in Iran. If he was motivated by money rather than ideology, it could explain why he flipped so easily after being arrested by U.S. authorities.

   Now, while the Iranian government has shown the ability to conduct sophisticated operations in countries within its sphere of influence, such as Lebanon and Iraq, the use of suboptimal agents to orchestrate an assassination plot in the United States is not entirely without precedent.

    For example, there appear to be some very interesting parallels between the Arbabsiar case and two other alleged Iranian plots to assassinate dissidents in Los Angeles and London. The details of these cases were exposed in the prosecution and conviction of Mohammad Reza Sadeghnia in California and in U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks pertaining to the Sadeghnia case.

    Sadeghnia, who was arrested in Los Angeles in July 2009, is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Iranian descent who at one point ran a painting business in Michigan. Sadeghnia was apparently recruited by the Iranian government and allegedly carried out preoperational surveillance on Jamshid Sharmahd, who made radio broadcasts for the Iranian opposition group Tondar from his residence in Glendora, Calif., and Ali Reza Nourizadeh, who worked for Voice of America in London.

Sadeghnia’s clumsy surveillance activities were a testament to his lack of tradecraft and were noticed by his targets. But even though he was fairly inept, a number of other factors seem to support claims that he was working as an agent for the Iranian government. These include his guilty plea, his international travel, and the facts that he conducted surveillance on two high-profile Iranian dissidents on two continents, was convicted of soliciting someone to murder one of them and then returned to Tehran while on supervised release.

    Sadeghnia’s profile as an unemployed housepainter from Iran who lived in the United States for many years is similar to that of Arbabsiar, a failed used car salesman. Sadeghnia pleaded guilty of planning to use a third man (also an Iranian-American) to run over and murder Sharmahd with a used van Sadeghnia had purchased. Like the alleged Arbabsiar plot, the Sadeghnia case displayed a lack of sophisticated assassination methodology in an Iranian-linked plot inside the United States.

    This does raise the question of why Iran chose to use another unsophisticated assassination operation after the Sadeghnia failure. On the other hand, the Iranians experienced no meaningful repercussions from that plot or much negative press.

    For Iranian operatives to be so obvious while operating inside the United States is not a new thing, as illustrated by the case of David Belfield, also known as Dawud Salahuddin, who was hired by the Iranian government to assassinate high-profile Iranian dissident Ali Akbar Tabatabaei in July 1980. Salahuddin is an African-American convert to Islam who worked as a security guard at an Iranian diplomatic office in Washington. He was paid $5,000 to shoot Tabatabaei and then fled the United States for Iran, where he still resides. In a plot reminiscent of the movie Three Days of the Condor, Salahuddin, who had stolen a U.S. Postal Service jeep, walked up to Tabatabaei’s front door dressed in a mail carrier’s uniform and shot the Iranian diplomat as he answered the door. It was a simple plot in which the Iranian hand was readily visible.

    There also have been numerous assassinations and failed assassination attempts directed against Iranian dissidents in Europe and elsewhere that were conducted in a rudimentary fashion by operatives easily linked to Iran. Such cases include the 1991 assassination of Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris, the 1989 murder of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou in Vienna and the 1992 killing of three Iranian-Kurdish opposition leaders at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin.

    All that said, there was a lengthy break between the Iranian assassinations in the West in the 1980s and 1990s and the Sadeghnia and Arbabsiar cases. We do not know for certain what could have motivated Iran to resume such operations, but the Iranians have been locked in a sustained covert intelligence war with the United States and its allies for several years now. It is possible these attacks are seen as an Iranian escalation in that war, or as retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists in Iran, which the Iranians claim were conducted by the United States and Israel.


South of the Border 


    One other result of the Arbabsiar case is that it has re-energized the long-held U.S. fears of foreign entities using the porous U.S.-Mexico border to conduct terrorist attacks inside the United States and of Mexican cartels partnering with foreign entities to carry out such attacks.

    But there are reasons this case does not substantiate such fears. First, it is important to remember that the purported Iranian operative in this case who traveled to the United States, Arbabsiar, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is not an Iranian who illegally crossed the border from Mexico. Arbabsiar used his U.S. passport to travel between the United States and Mexico.

    Second, while Arbabsiar, and purportedly Shahlai, believed that the Los Zetas cartel would undertake kidnapping or assassination in the United States in exchange for money, that assumption may be flawed. Certainly, while Mexican cartels do indeed kidnap and murder people inside the United States (often for financial gain), they also have a long history of being very careful about the types of operations they conduct inside the United States. This is because the cartels do not want to incur the full wrath of the U.S. government. Shooting a drug dealer in Laredo who loses a load of dope is one thing; going after the Saudi ambassador in Washington is quite another. While the payoff for this operation seems substantial ($1.5 million), there is no way that a Mexican cartel would jeopardize its billion-dollar enterprise for such a small one-time payment and for an act that offered no other apparent business benefit to the cartel. While Mexican cartels can be quite violent, their violence is calculated for the most part, and they tend to refrain from activities that could jeopardize their long-term business plans.

    One potential danger in terms of U.S. mainland security is that the Arbabsiar case might focus too much additional attention on the U.S.-Mexico border and that this attention could cause resources to be diverted from the northern border and other points of entry, such as airports and seaports. While it is relatively easy to illegally enter the United States over the southern border, and the United States has no idea who many of the illegal immigrants really are, that does not mean that resources should be taken from elsewhere.

    As STRATFOR has noted before, many terrorist plots have originated in Canada — far more than have had any sort of nexus to Mexico. These include plots involving Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, a Palestinian who was convicted of planning a suicide bombing of the New York subway system in 1997; Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested when he tried to enter the United States with explosives in 1999; and the so-called Toronto 18 cell, which was arrested in 2006 and later convicted of planning a string of attacks in Canada and the United States.

    Moreover, most terrorist operatives who have traveled to the United States intending to participate in terrorist attacks have flown directly into the country from overseas. Such operatives include the 19 men involved in the 9/11 attacks, the foreigners involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the follow-on New York landmarks bomb plot, as well as failed New York subway bomber Najibulah Zazi and would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Even failed shoe bomber Richard Reid and would-be underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to fly directly into the United States.

    While there is concern over security on the southern U.S. border, past plots involving foreign terrorist operatives traveling to the United States have either involved direct travel to the United States or travel from Canada. There is simply no empirical evidence to support the idea that the Mexican border is more likely to be used by terrorist operatives than other points of entry.

    This STRATFOR Security Weekly update is republished with permission and thanks from The 5th Estate.

Protests in Athens bring Greece to standstill amid austerity vote

Greek govt. still doesn't get it:  Criminal bankers, government thieves must be brought to justice;  Protesters fight running battles with riot police as general strike brings Greece to standstill before adoption of new austerity measures

The Telegraph
 By Nick Squires

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters as they besieged parliament in the capital’s Syntagma Square.

     Greek politicians granted initial approval to a new austerity bill whose spending cuts and tax hikes have sparked fury on the streets of Athens.

Cops have asses handed to them by protesters
The bill received a 154-141 vote late Wednesday. A second vote on the bill's articles will be held Thursday in the 300-member Parliament. Only after that vote will the bill have passed.

The legislation, whilst deeply unpopular with ordinary Greeks, must be passed if Athens is to receive the latest 8 billion euro (£7 billion) tranche of funds from its 110 billion euro international bailout organised by the EU and IMF.

Without the injection of funds, the Socialist government of George Papandreou, the prime minister, has said that by next month it will have run out of money to pay for pensions and public sector salaries. 

    A small but highly militant minority of demonstrators threw rocks and petrol bombs at ranks of police officers. More than 100,000 private and public sector workers marched on parliament to protest against plans to raise taxes, cut salaries and suspend public sector workers. 

Protesters mean business, refuse to stand down
Protesters wearing gas masks, scarves and motorcycle helmets tried to smash down a metal barricade guarding the main approach to the parliament building.

They banged drums and threw rubbish bins at riot police equipped with batons and shields, part of a force of 7,000 deployed to the capital.

    "We can't make ends meet for our families," said one protester, Eleni Voulieri. "We've lost our salaries, we've lost everything and we're in danger of losing our jobs."

    Nikos Anastasopoulos, the head of an Athens council workers' union, said: “We just can't take it anymore. There is desperation, anger and bitterness.”

    "With these measures they are killing us slowly. There will be war today and I am going to take part," said Dimitris Panagiotopoulos, a 75-year old pensioner. 

Police getting hammered
Greek police said at least 14 officers were sent to hospital with injuries.

 At least three journalists covering the demonstrations sustained minor injuries.

A 48-hour general strike, which will continue on Thursday, reduced the country to a state of virtual paralysis.

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Just Don't Call it a militia: Part 5

The Afghan Local police:  "Community Watch With AK 47's."

Human Rights Watch

These remote villages, where the Taliban has had unimpeded freedom of maneuver for the past few months, and up to a year, it’s imperative that you get some type of security force in there. If we can effect change at our level and reinforce the trust of these people at a local level, even if that includes empowering former criminals in the short term to stabilize village in the long term then that needs to be our primary focus.
—Lt. Kyle Brown, platoon leader, US Army, interviewed in August 2010 in Stars and Stripes, referring to militias recruited to work with ISAF in Baghlan
[The ALP] are not police. They are a militia called police to make their introduction more palatable to the members of the international community who have misgivings.
—Tonita Murray, advisor to Ministry of Interior official, July 23, 2011
On August 16, 2010, President Karzai signed a decree establishing the Afghan Local Police (ALP).[207] The ALP is officially designed to “secure local communities and prevent rural areas from infiltration of insurgent groups.”[208] The ALP is supposed to supplement national security forces by providing community defense, but without law enforcement powers. It is seen by the US military as a way to deal with the immense time pressures of trying to improve stability and transition control of security to the Afghan government in 2014.[209]

    The ALP is already a year old and was conceived in 2010 as a two to five year program that will provide time for Afghan national military and police forces to be built up, after which the ALP will be disbanded or transitioned into the national police.[210] An international military official described the ALP “as a way to free up the national army from defensive forces and focus on offensive operations.”[211] It is also hoped that the ALP will be a way to recruit more southern Pashtuns into the national security forces in order to add greater ethnic balance to the army and police.[212]

Afghan Police
Prior to the announcement of the ALP, there was considerable debate in government and among key donors about the wisdom of creating another community defense force, just as there was about the creation of AP3 in Wardak.[213] A European official told Human Rights Watch:

The palace was pressured. The MOI [Ministry of the Interior] was initially confused about what control they will have. It’s hard to say whether ALP will be a success or failure, but it’s not good for the long-term stability of Afghanistan when the internationals and Afghans are already struggling with the quality of army and police training, and now you throw in an extra 10,000 ALP who have to be trained, supervised, and paid for.[214]

    The revival of community defense forces by the US, despite all the previous failures discussed above, is not surprising given the weakness of the Afghan national army and police and lack of Afghan security forces in some conflict areas. An advisor to the commanding general of US special operations forces, explained:
Local defense forces can be a bottom-up strategy in rural areas, and if kept small, defensive, and under the control of legitimate elders, can complement top down efforts from the central government. The military and Afghan government began seeing pockets of local resistance to the Taliban in the south and southeast. ISAF and district Afghan government officials went to talk to the people. They were not always supportive of the central government and generally opposed to the Taliban. But these areas had no sustained security presence. They did not necessarily want or trust the police, who they see as corrupt, to play a permanent role. A local defense force was part of the answer, along with improving basic informal and governance and development.[215]
    The Afghan government had been resistant to what it perceived as unilateral efforts by US special operations forces to create “local defense initiatives” not under the control of the central government. ALP represented a compromise that allowed the creation of thousands of “local police” under Ministry of Interior command, with training and mentoring from US special operations forces.[216] The ALP program was designed to “consolidate all known coalition and Afghan local self-defense force programs.”[217]

ALP trained by U.S. military forces
The US military is funding the ALP through the Afghan government.[218] Recruitment for the ALP began in August 2010.[219] According to the official directive creating the ALP, an ALP candidate must be between 18 to 45 years old, nominated by the local community shuras, vetted by MOI via a government in-processing team and the NDS, and biometrically registered. ALP recruits receive 21 days of training predominantly by US forces on search and detention, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection, marksmanship, communications, battle drills and movement techniques, driver training, drug interdiction, vehicle check point procedures, “as well as Afghan society-specific topics,” such as the Afghan constitution, rule of law, human rights and use of force, police policy, ethics, morals and values. ALP units are “restricted to [operate] only in their own district.”[220]

    ALP units receive military small arms, ammunition, vehicles, radios, and uniforms from the MOI, which is supposed to keep a register of all weapons and ammunition. ALP members sign yearly contracts. Upon termination of their contract or of the ALP program, qualified members will be eligible for integration into the ANA, ANP, or Afghan Border Police (ABP). Salaries are approximately 60 percent of basic ANP pay.[221]

    At the district level, the ALP report to the district chief of police. Nationally, ALP units report to the Ministry of Interior. US special operations forces have a mentoring role and are tasked to train and work with ALP units for a period of time before handing them over to conventional forces for further mentoring.[222]

    The Afghan government has set an initial target of hiring 10,000 men for the ALP in 77 districts.[223] US military commanders hope to exceed that number, and the US Congress has approved funding for 30,000 men.[224]

    The initial roll-out was rapid. In February 2011 the number of “validated,” or MOI approved, ALP districts was 17.[225] A month later this had increased to 34, with another 29 “pending validation” and 14 “pending MOI approval for ALP elements.”[226] New members were on patrol beginning in September 2010, but did not begin to receive uniforms until February or March 2011, which added to local difficulties in distinguishing ALP from other arbakis.[227] According to ISAF, as of August 2011, 7,000 men have been trained as ALP in 43 districts.[228]

ALP recruits
The rules of engagement for the ALP are vague. Under the ALP directive, the ALP is a “defensive, community-oriented unit” and “not equipped for offensive operations.”[229] According to the former head of the ALP, Gen. Khan Mohammad Khan, the force has “no law enforcement mandate, but if the official bodies ask them, then they can make an arrest and send to the prosecution office. They can’t investigate. They cannot detain. But they can hand over the suspects.”[230] An international official said that they “have detention but no arrest authority, [and] can conduct investigations under direct supervision of the Deputy District Chief of Police.”[231]

    The ALP directive, however, does not spell out the parameters of the ALP’s investigative powers. Although the ALP can detain suspected members of insurgent forces, the directive provides no guidance on issues such as where individuals can be detained, the length and conditions of detention, and the handover process to law enforcement authorities. As some of the cases discussed below illustrate, there are already instances where the ALP appears to be stepping into law enforcement or quasi-military functions.
    The current ALP plan also lacks clarity about how the ALP will be disbanded once the ANA and ANP are fully staffed and operational. It is not clear what will happen to those who cannot or do not want to transition to the ANP upon termination of the ALP program. An advisor to the Ministry of Interior expressed some of these concerns to Human Rights Watch:

It’s a great opportunity for growing arbaki and illegal groups. If you give these people weapons and equipment it’s difficult for the future of Afghanistan. In the future we wouldn’t be able to implement DIAG and DDR again, who would believe us? No one will give us money again if we say we will disband and disarm them.... Where is the guarantee that they won’t turn out to be the enemy of the Afghan government.[232]
    Given the history of arbaki and other armed groups in Afghanistan, many Afghans interviewed expressed concerns that the ALP will operate as “another militia,” empowering local strongmen or criminal groups, and able to act with impunity beyond the control of the national security institutions.

    The Afghan government and its international allies have tried to address some of these concerns by instituting national Ministry of Interior command and control systems, as well as training and mentoring by US special operations forces. However, it is unclear whether national authorities are either able or willing to provide adequate oversight. The track record is not good. The Ministry of Interior has limited capacity to provide effective oversight of additional forces, which are operating in areas where by definition the ministry has minimum presence, and at a time when it is struggling to provide adequate command and control of the 125,000 Afghan National Police force. And there is little history of national authorities prosecuting perpetrators of even serious crimes by such forces, except in cases that receive high-profile media attention.

    Human Rights Watch research in areas where the ALP has begun to operate provides grounds for concern. In Pul-e-Khumri district of Baghlan and Shindand district of Herat there have been allegations of serious abuse. The crimes attributable to ALP members include cases of sexual abuse, unauthorized raids, land grabbing, extrajudicial killings, and an enforced disappearance.[233]


Development of the ALP in Pul-e-Khumri, Baghlan


What I get from them [referring to former Hezb-i-Islami fighters working with US troops], it’s [comparable] ... to hiring a gang to help you out.... My personal opinion, I’m not sure about them yet. They’re definitely motivated. Whether it’s for the good of their country or for personal reasons, I don’t know.
— Spc. Chad Cunningham, squad leader with Company B, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, stationed in Baghlan province in 2010 and interviewed in August 2010 in Stars and Stripes
    Civilians in Baghlan province, located in the northeast of Afghanistan, face criminal activities by militias, a growing insurgency, and increased international and Afghan military operations. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) observed a 120 percent increase in insurgent-initiated attacks in Baghlan in 2010 compared to 2009.[234]

    In August 2010, the Afghan Local Police was formally introduced in Baghlan. According to local officials, the initial recruits to the ALP in the greater Pul-e-Khumri area included former former Hezb-i-Islami (Gulbuddin) members, including a commander called Nur-ul Haq and a group of men who joined the government in March 2010 and began working with US troops in August 2010.[235] According to the joint UNAMA and AIHRC report on the protection of civilians, the ALP in the Pul-e-Khumri area was reportedly given weapons by US forces rather than the Ministry of Interior.[236]

Two members of the Baghlan provincial council told Human Rights Watch that they had been pressured to accept men that US troops had already been working with. Jahangir Jawan, the secretary of the Baghlan provincial council, told Human Rights Watch that a commission, composed of the governor, police, NDS, and provincial council, was established to look into the establishment of ALP in Baghlan in November 2010. According to Jawan, someone from US Special Forces attended the commission and brought a letter with the names of ALP recruits for approval, “but I did not sign the list, as I don’t know these people.”[237] Nur-ul Haq’s men were reportedly already working with US special operations forces before the list was created.

    Mohammed Rasoul Mohsini, the chief of Baghlan provincial council, told Human Rights Watch that, “The establishment of ALP did not happen in accordance with the MOI directive. Instead the Special Forces went to the thieves and brought in arbakis.”[238]

    Mohsini recalls that at a meeting with US Special Forces in the governor’s house in November 2010, he told them:
We should not go for these arkabis. They [US special operations forces] did not listen … and recruited 150 people. I spoke with Captain Andy from Special Forces.  I told him that you are here to support Afghan people, not give them guns, they are criminals…. Captain Andy responded that they are not criminals. I was surprised that Special Forces are backing these people. We know our people and know what is happening. I made an argument that if you don’t listen to us then there is no need for the provincial council, police, the governor … you are doing our job. I left the meeting. I am a representative of the people and they should listen to me.[239]
    Mohsini told us that following these meetings, Brig. Gen. Scott Miller and Gen. Daud Daud, commander of the police in the north who was killed in an insurgent attack in May 2011, came to see him about the ALP. Mohsini said that he told General Miller that he was against the ALP “because there was no consultation with us. These ALP need to be vetted and recommended by the community, but this was not done.”[240]

    Mohsini alleges that Nur-ul Haq and his men are affiliated with Hezb-i-Islami and involved in criminal activities. They are “collecting ushr, kidnapping, extorting, breaking into people’s houses, doing revenge killings.”[241]

    Nur-ul Haq has told reporters that the allegations against him are untrue: “Those who told these things to you, they have spoken from the tongue of the Taliban…. All these people in the government are supporting the Taliban. The head of the provincial council himself is a Talib.”[242]


ALP Abuses in Pul-e-Khumri


    Villagers in Pul-e-Khumri district in Baghlan told Human Rights Watch that men affiliated with the ALP have been involved in sexual abuse, a night raid that resulted in the death of a boy, an extrajudicial killing, and an enforced disappearance, and have used their status as ALP to force resolutions to land disputes. Afghan analysts who have recently examined the ALP in Baghlan have also reported cases of kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, and the forcible collection of ushr, allegedly by ALP members in the Pul-e-Khumri area.[243] The chief of police of Pul-e-Khumri told Human Rights Watch that the police has been unable to investigate ALP suspects due to their relationship with special operations forces.

Sexual Violence



    On April 2, 2011, Zia J. (a pseudonym), a 13-year-old boy, was allegedly raped by ALP sub-commander Abdur Rehman and four other men. Abdur Rehman runs an ALP checkpost in Omer Khel village.[244] Human Rights Watch spoke with Zia J.’s brother, Sher Jan (a pseudonym), who said:
On the way to our sister’s house, near the main bazaar of Omer Khel, [my brother] faced four armed men connected to ALP commander, Abdur Rehman, who took him to Abdur Rehman’s house…. It was after the evening prayer that they reached Rehman’s house. Then Abdur Rehman and four of his bodyguards [names unknown] raped Zia. Two of Abdur Rehman’s men tried to stop them abusing Zia, but did not succeed. The next morning, the two men who tried to mediate the night before facilitated Zia’s escape from Abdurrahman’s house. When he escaped, he left his shoes and jacket behind.[245]
    Sher Jan told Human Rights Watch that he took his brother to the Police District 3 station and spoke with the chief of police, Qudratullah, and the provincial chief of police, General Rahimi. “The chief of provincial police ordered Abdur Rehman’s arrest and asked the head of security, Sayed Imamudin Zuhur, to go and arrest him,” said Sher Jan.[246]

    Human Rights Watch spoke with Qudratullah. He said he was aware of this case and had been ordered by the provincial chief of police to arrest Abdur Rehman, “but was unable to do so because of local challenges.” He would not explain to Human Rights Watch what these challenges were.[247] Human Rights Watch spoke with General Gulab, the overall head of the ALP in Baghlan, who said, “I don’t know the details of the case and how many people were involved since no investigation has been done. Both the provincial chief of police and I have requested US Special Forces to summon Abdur Rehman for investigation, but they have not sent him yet.”[248]

The ALP directive states that the ALP will be trained and mentored by SOF, but report to the district chief of police. But in practice, local officials said they would need permission from US special operations forces to question an ALP sub-commander. This calls into serious question the ability of the ANP to supervise ALP members and to investigate allegations of abuse. It also highlights the consequences of how armed groups aligned to international military forces are perceived as, or are, untouchable.

    Human Rights Watch requested information from US forces regarding this case, in particular whether US special operations forces in Baghlan were aware of the allegations and the request from the police to make Abdur Rehman available for questioning. A response is pending.


Raid and Killing of a Boy


    During a joint patrol by Nur-ul Haq and his men with US forces in the Shahabudeen area, a raid was conducted on the house of Lal Mohammed in August 2010 during which his nine-year-old son Ajmal was killed.[249] The incident, involving inappropriate and perhaps unlawful use of force, highlights the dangers of using ill-trained irregular armed groups beyond the scope of their mandate, even if alongside US special operations forces.[250] Lal Mohammed described what happened:
Nur-ul Haq, Faz-ul Haq, and their men were involved in killing my son and the attack on my house. I was with my family watching the nightly news on the TV when there was knocking on the door and my son Ajmal went to open the door. Then one of the arbakis caught Ajmal and put his hand on Ajmal’s mouth to mute him and took him outside and they stabbed Ajmal.
Lal Mohammed was detained and accused of being an insurgent:
People rushed inside the house and start firing guns at our TV and in the air and shot my cousin Khan in his feet … from outside through the window. After the gunfire they took me out with another two men who were guests at my home, too. When they were taking us outside the house they blindfolded us and walked us for about 1.5 kilometers, where we finally reached the Americans, Nur-ul Haq told the interpreter that I am one of the Taliban.
    Local human rights officials and security officials in Baghlan confirmed that Ajmal was killed during the raid.[251] The US military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported: “With barely a word to the U.S. troops, the fighters [which the article refers to as former Hezb-i-Islami men working with US troops] pushed their way into the house and began shooting into the ceiling — they later explained that they were trying to calm the screaming women and children inside.”[252]
According to Lal Mohammed, “Villagers and family members who saw my son’s body said that he had stab and bullet wounds.”[253] Human Rights Watch spoke to Amir Mohammed, a neighbor of Lal Mohammed, who said:
During the washing of the body I saw one knife hole on his right chest and two more holes on the back left side of his body and one bullet wound on his head, front right corner.[254]
Lal Mohammed is angry about his son’s death:
I have not been given any compensation or anything else by Americans or the Afghan government. No one has told me sorry or expressed their condolence about my only nine-year-old son, and for these reasons I hate them. I want to fight against them till the end of my life.[255]
     Lal Mohammed says that when he was detained he was initially held by US forces in their vehicle and then handed over to the ANP the same day. He was then held in the central Pul-e-Khumri jail for three months before being released. No charges were filed against him. [256]

A September 29, 2010, article in the Stars and Stripes said that the raid and killing prompted a local riot, “with several hundred residents burning tires in the street — and a sharp rebuke from the provincial governor and other officials who blamed the US for acting rashly and giving the militiamen too long a leash.”[257]

    The conduct of the raid raises concerns about the unlawful use of force by Nur-ul Haq’s men. Even if he were killed during a lawful attack on a suspected Taliban position, Lal Mohammed’s son was not a valid military target.[258] Parties to a conflict must take “all feasible precautions” to ensure that a target of attack is a military objective and not a civilian, and to call off an attack if it is determined that the target is civilian.[259] It is unclear why Haq and his men were doing a joint raid with US forces when “local defense initiatives” either in their VSO/LDI form or officially as ALP are not supposed to engage in offensive operations. Human Rights Watch is unaware of an Afghan government or US military investigation into this raid and the circumstances that resulted in the death of a nine-year-old boy. 


Threats and the Killing of Ghulam Jan


    On February 13, 2011, Ghulam Jan was shot and killed in his home.[260] Jan was a director of the National Solidarity Program (NSP) in Baghlan, which plans and monitors development projects in rural communities. According to a relative of Ghulam Jan, who wished to remain anonymous, Jan’s appointment was contested by Mohammed Gul, a former Hezb-i-Islami-Gulbuddin (HiG) commander, who became Jan’s main rival.[261] Tension between the two men was temporarily resolved with the assistance of another HiG commander named Mirwais. In 2010, following the defeat of Hezb-e-Islami by the Taliban and the creation of “arbakis” under Nur-ul Haq, the rivalry between Jan and Gul reignited as Gul tried to remove Jan from his position with Haq’s assistance.[262] According to a witness who wishes to remain anonymous, Haq threatened Jan four times and told Jan to leave his position and let Gul become the head of NSP.[263] A village elder facilitated a meeting between Haq and Jan and Haq “promised not to cause problems for Jan.”[264] Ten days after the meeting Ghulam Jan was killed.[265]

    The Baghlan Criminal Investigation Division told Human Rights Watch that Mohammed Gul and Nur-ul Haq are suspects and an investigation is underway, but no arrests had been made as of this writing.[266]


Arbitrary Detention and Enforced Disappearance 


    Gharib Shah, 25, went missing on January 14, 2011. For a month he had been working as a laborer with Faz-ul Haq—Nur-ul Haq’s brother—in the Shahabudeen area.[267] According to Shah's relative, Amir S. (pseudonym), on the day he went missing, Shah was told by Faz-ul Haq to “go to Commander Abdur Rahman’s house.” Abdur Rahman heads an ALP checkpoint in Omer Khel. Shah was allegedly then detained in a room in Abdur Rehman’s house, which is at the Omer Khel checkpoint, but managed to make a phone call to his friend Sher Agha to let him know that he was being detained.

    Amir S. told Human Rights Watch that soon after the call Shah could no longer be reached on the mobile phone.[268] Three days later, Amir S. went to elders in the village to discuss Gharib’s detention.[269] The village elders went to see Faz-ul Haq and his brother Nur-ul Haq and were told that Gharib’s detention was a mistake and that he would be released in a day or two. But Gharib was not released.
Mullah Sayed Nur, one of the village elders who went to see Nur-ul Haq, told Human Rights Watch:
The first time Nur-ul Haq told us that it was a mistake that Gharib Shah was detained and promised to release him soon…. The second time he said the same. This time, I also took a Holy Quran with me. I showed the Quran to him and asked him to release Gharib Shah because of the Quran. We met Nur-ul Haq for the third time and this time he told us that Gharib Shah is not with him. He said that Gharib Shah is with foreigners. After the last meeting, he sent one of his bodyguards to us to tell us that we should not see him for this purpose. In the other two meetings that we had with him, he did not deny that Gharib Shah was with him.[270]
    Under international human rights law, an enforced disappearance occurs when authorities detain an individual outside the protection of the law and by refusing to acknowledge the person is being held or provide information on their fate or whereabouts.[271]

Shah’s relatives went to the US base at Bagram in early March to inquire whether Shah was there, but were told he was not.[272] The family has written petitions to the NDS in Pul-e-Khumri, the Baghlan CID, the Baghlan governor, the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, and the Baghlan provincial council. Amir S. wants to know what happened to Gharib Shah:
It is now three months that my brother has disappeared. I don’t know whether he is alive or dead. Some people told me that Faz-ul Haq killed him, while others say that he is still alive. If I had known about his death, I would have organized a mourning ceremony for him. I do not have a personal problem with Faz-ul Haq or his brother Nur-ul Haq. I don’t know what has happened to him.[273]
    At this writing, the Baghlan CID told Human Rights Watch that they are investigating this case and that they believe that Abdur Rehman is responsible for the enforced disappearance of Gharib Shah, but that the motive is unclear.[274]


Unlawful Interference in a Home and Threats


    Forty-year-old Mir W. (pseudonym), who works with the National Solidarity Program, told Human Rights Watch about a raid on his house in March 2011 led by ALP commander Abdur Rehman who has a checkpoint in Omer Khel village.[275] According to Mir W.:
It was about 11:00 in the morning. My house was surrounded by about 30 armed arbakis. They had RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] … and AK-47s with them pointing at my house. I went out and started talking to Abdur Rehman, who was the commander of these men, and I asked him what is going on. “Why you are pointing all these weapons at my house?” He replied, “We are here to search these two houses.” One was mine and the other that of my 30-year-old nephew who is a farmer.[276]
    According to Mir W., Abdur Rehman “insulted and abused” him when he tried to ask him questions about the purpose of the search. The search took an hour and a half and his house was left a “mess.”[277]

    Mir W. recalled that after the search, “Abdur Rehman came to me and said, ‘Okay now tell me what you were trying to tell me, then I will smash your teeth.’ I told him, ‘No, I don’t have anything to say.’ I was scared and I knew if I said anything he would start beating me.” Mir W. told ALP commander Nur-ul Haq about the raid by Abdur Rehman’s men.[278] According to Mir W., Nur-ul Haq said that he “was unaware of the search and apologized for the insults by Abdur Rehman.”[279]

    The chief of the Fourth Police District of Baghlan, Akram Khan, told Human Rights Watch that Mir W. reported the case to the police. “Most of the time they [ALP] are going on operations and searches like this without informing us or the chief of the police in Pul-e-Khumri.”[280]

    The terms of reference for the ALP state that ALP units do not engage in offensive operations such as search or detention operations without authorization from the police. In this incident the ALP conducted an apparently illegal search and carried rocket-propelled grenades, which violates ALP guidelines that the ALP are to be armed only with “small arms (AK-47s).”[281]


Forcible Land Grab


    Militias are frequently involved in land disputes, one of the most common sources of conflict in Afghanistan. Jummah Gul from Omer Khel village alleges that his family had a longstanding dispute with Abdur Rehman, which Abdur Rehman is trying to resolve using the threat of his militia.[282] At the time of Human Rights Watch’s interview with Gul in mid-March 2011, Gul still had possession over the property. But a month later Abdur Rehman and his men were in control of the land and Gul and his family were forced to leave and are living in Pul-e-Khumri city.[283]

    Jummah Gul told Human Rights Watch that his father had bought 10 acres of land from Abdur Rahman’s father 60 years ago, but Abdur Rehman claims that no payment for the land has been made. Gul told Human Rights Watch that Nur-ul Haq, who is the main commander of the ALP in the Shahubudeen area, mediated a meeting between Abdur Rehman and Jummah Gul in late February 2011.[284] According to Jummah Gul, at that meeting Abdur Rehman refused to have the courts resolve the issue and insisted that he wanted a village jirga to resolve the issue. Jummah Gul says he fears a jirga would be weighted against him. He said:
Rehman threatened me with death if I don’t accept the jirga  to solve the case.... I can’t accept a jirga since it will be partial because jirga members are afraid of Abdur Rehman and Nur-ul Haq….  He said he will take the land soon if I don’t sit with him in a jirga.[285]
    At this writing, Abdur Rehman is in possession of the land. Jummah Gul has written complaints to the Baghlan police, the Baghlan provincial council, and to the head of the ALP in Kabul, Gen. Ali Shah Ahmadzai, alleging that his house has been looted and property seized by Abdur Rehman and his men.[286] 

    A prosecutor in Baghlan who is assigned to the case, told Human Rights Watch that Nur-ul Haq, Abdur Rehman, and their men were in possession of the land and house:
We were allowed to enter the house, but Nur-ul Haq's men did not allow us to film the house and trees. Everything was looted from the house except a destroyed radio that we found in the house. More than 100 trees had been cut. If they have a dispute over the land, why should they cut the trees? If Abdur Rehman and Nur-ul Haq win the case legally, they can have the trees too. We wrote a report and stated that Abdur Rehman with the support of Nur-ul Haq misused his power and violated the property rights of Jummah Gul. In the report, we have demanded his and Nur-ul Haq’s arrest. Since, they are arbakis and have connection with the Americans, no one has arrested them.[287] 
    At this writing, the case is being investigated by the Baghlan Criminal Investigation Division.[288]

  Raid, Injury, and Theft


    On June 13, 2011, businessman Rafiq M.’s (pseudonym) house was raided by Nur-ul Haq and his men. Rafiq M. told Human Rights Watch:
It was 10:30 p.m. My house was surrounded by Nur-ul Haq, Commander Qari Qahar, and their men. Four people without uniforms entered my house. Others were outside. They opened fire and wounded my cousin Ghafur A. [pseudonym] who is 13 years old. I took Ghafur M. to Panjshir hospital. One bullet hit him in the mouth.[289]
    According to Rafiq M., his uncle and son were taken by Haq and his men to their base in Shahbudeen as they suspected them of being Taliban. The men were detained for four days and released.[290]

On June 16, Rafiq M. met with the head of the ALP and Minister of Interior Gen. Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai to complain about the raid. Following the meeting, Gen. Ahmadzai instructed the Baghlan chief of police to investigate the allegations. In his letter to the chief of police, Gen. Ahmadzai wrote: “According to the procedure set out for Afghan Local Police, they [the ALP] have no law enforcement responsibility unless accompanied by uniformed police. I hope you will take serious measures to follow and resolve the problem through legal channels.”[291]

    Despite the letter from Ministry of Interior, at this writing the Baghlan police had not yet investigated the allegations.


Development of ALP in Shindand, Herat


    The southern district of Shindand is the most insecure in Afghanistan’s western Herat province. Insurgent and criminal activity is particularly focused in the Zerkoh area of the district.[292] Armed groups affiliated with local power brokers in Shindand have been accused of involvement in kidnappings, murder, extortion, and theft.[293]

    Because of the level of insecurity, Shindand was selected to be one of the districts where the ALP would be established, with a budget to recruit 325 men.[294] But in an echo of the reaction in Baghlan, the local government opposed the creation of the ALP in Shindand, fearing it would be yet another militia that would cause security problems.

    According to the ALP directive, the ANP district chief of police has operational control over the ALP and the local ALP will be accountable to the local shuras that sponsored them. Village elders and government officials from Shindand expressed concern about the capability of the ANP to supervise the ALP, in part because in Shindand the ANP is just half the size of the ALP.[295] One government official suggested to Human Rights Watch that, “This imbalance could result in an armed clash between the ANP and ALP.”[296]

    General Eftikhari of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, a paramilitary unit of the national police, told Human Rights Watch:
Shindand district is one of the most problematic districts where tribal tensions are very high…. Arbakis are not the right solution for Shindand. In Shindand, people of one tribe kill people of another tribe and there is a lot of personal enmity.... The directive talks about vetting and effective monitoring but these ideas exist only on paper. It would be good to implement these but in reality it will hard to do so [because] they will be operational in areas where the police is not effective. It will be hard to get them punished or prosecuted.”[297]
    The acting chief of police in Shindand, General Delawari, similarly said: 
The national police are still weak [in Shindand] and have so far been unable to be very effective, particularly in areas where insurgent and organized mafia groups are active. We have also problems with local power brokers, and it is often not easy to arrest and prosecute people connected to these local power brokers.[298]
General Delawari further noted that the relationship of armed groups with US special operations forces also “interferes with [police] work.” [299] This relationship could cause problems when investigating allegations of abuses by the ALP, as special operations forces may, as discussed below, attempt to protect individuals or groups with whom they have close relationships.
    US special operations forces have been present in Shindand district for several years, with a significant airbase located in the district. They have worked closely with abusive armed factions in the area. A 2010 report by the US Congress described the Afghan armed factions employed by US special operations forces in Herat province as “warlords” known for “murder, kidnapping, bribery, and anti-Coalition activities.”[300]

Wounded Afghan girl
Special operations forces and local armed groups are also associated with some significant civilian casualty incidents, the worst of which took place in Azizabad, Shindand district, on August 21-22, 2008. A special operations forces raid based on false intelligence about an insurgent gathering in Azizabad village resulted in airstrikes that killed more than 80 civilians, in an operation that may have been based on misinformation from Mohammad Nader, the leader of a local armed faction working with US special operations forces.[301] In February 2009, a Herat primary court sentenced Nader to death for “spying” and providing “bad information” to US forces relating to the airstrikes, a verdict upheld by the court of appeal on May 25, 2009.[302]

    In a similar case involving militias working with US special operations forces, Agha Mohammad, who was connected to a gang that rivaled Nader’s militia, died in suspicious circumstances in December 2008 at the US airbase in Shindand. He was abducted by Nader’s men and taken to the airbase.[303] Photographs of the body received by Human Rights Watch and a government autopsy report suggested that Agha Mohammad could have been tortured.[304] Afghan officials say that the US did not cooperate with their investigations.[305]

    These kinds of incidents have fueled local mistrust in some communities towards US special operations forces, suspicions that are shared by some Afghan government officials. A senior Afghan National Army officer in Herat told Human Rights Watch that the poor reputation of US special operations forces hampers their work:
According to our reports, the arbakis in Shindand have close connections with the US military, particularly with the US Special Forces. Since the arrival of the US Special Forces in Shindand, we have tried to stay away from Shindand. Otherwise the general population would have seen us as partnering with US forces.[306]
    All of this complicates the establishment of the ALP in Shindand, since the ALP is seen by many as a creation of the US. Even without this history, the creation of a new armed group in Afghanistan with salaries and weapons is likely to be a source of competition and potential conflict.

    Unsurprisingly, there are already signs that the creation of the ALP has caused friction between the tribal and political factions in Shindand, an area already rife withpolitical complexities. As Mohammed Qasim Stanekzai, head of the High Peace Council and advisor to the president, told Human Rights Watch, “In Shindand there have for many years been tribal issues, warlord issues, [and] special forces issues.”[307]

    Village elders from Shindand told Human Rights Watch that they fear that the ALP will exacerbate the existing power struggle in the district between District Governor Lal Mohammad Omerzai, a member of the Afghan Mellat party, and Haji Ameer Mohammad, a local Hezb-i-Islami commander who has worked closely with US special operations forces and now heads the ALP in Zerkow valley. Local elders say that Haji Ameer Mohammad brought his men with him to ALP based on his relationship with the US.[308] 

    Local elders explained that Omerzai and Mohammad come from different sub-tribes of the Noorzais and are attempting to assert themselves as leaders of the whole tribe following the death of Toran Amanullah, the chief power broker of the Noorzai tribe in the region.[309] 

    Shindand rivalries are complex and intertwined, but one factor is tribal rivalry. The ALP in Shindand is perceived to be predominantly comprised of members of the Noorzai tribe, which is causing concerns among the Barakzais, who see the Noorzais as their rivals.[310] A village elder who referred to the ALP and arbaki interchangeably said:
The Zerkow valley is mainly Noorzai; only one village is Barakzai. These arbakis are Noorzais and put pressure on Achakzai and Barakzai. The rivalries between the Barakzais and Noorzais are intense. We are at the end of the Zerkow valley and we are surrounded by Noorzais. The ALP accuse us of being affiliated with Taliban. There is so much pressure on us. There is no security for us so we decided to leave the area. There were 800 families, 300 already left. Some have moved to Shindand center, Iran, Herat. For the rest of the 500 families this pressure continues and we cannot live there.[311]
    Human Rights Watch interviewed village elders from Mufairkhel village, near Bakhabad village in Zerkow. The elders said they represented over 60 families who had felt compelled to leave their homes in October 2010 out of fear that a local militia that had previously harassed their community had joined the ALP under Haji Ameer Mohammed in Bakhtabad village.[312] One of the elders told Human Rights Watch: 
We did not feel secure. They [referring to the militias] are now ALP and armed. We need arms to protect ourselves and don’t trust them. We all left because no one from our families are arbakis  and we don’t trust these arbakis and need to arm ourselves. Yesterday, we went to the Americans and asked that nine people be accepted from our tribe.… We told the Americans we don’t want guns if you protect us. But they said we cannot provide our own security and that’s why we need arbakis. We will go back to our village once our people are accepted as arbakis. We left our land and property.[313]
    Local human rights officials in Herat have similarly found that families are leaving Bakhtabad, Masiyan, and other villages in Zerkow out of fear for their personal safety after the creation of the ALP.[314]

Abused Afghan boys
In October 2010, Shindand district council members objected to the creation of the ALP on the grounds that it was creating yet another militia and would lessen security. Writing to the Ministry of Interior on October 23, 2010, the district council said:
Shindand District Council with the presence of the majority of its members has decided unanimously that the presence of armed men under the name arbakis would create more security problems in Shindand district instead of being helpful. Shindand district council requests that more attention should be given to the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, to strengthen these two main forces instead of arming more individuals under the name of arbakis. All Shindand people disapprove of the presence and establishment of arbakis.[315]
    However, in November 2010 the provincial governor, Dr. Dawood Saba, visited the district and persuaded the district council to change its position and support the ALP. According to village elders from Zerkow valley, after Saba’s visit, Mullah Amanullah, a member of the district council and supporter of the ALP, was appointed as chairman of the district council.[316]


Controversy over Recruitment


    The Ministry of Interior directive creating the ALP states that recruits are to be vetted by the local shura, with the list then approved by the ministry.[317] In practice it appears that some LDI members were enlisted into the ALP by US special operations forces without following the official vetting process. Lal Mohammed Omarzai, the district governor of Shindand, who has been publicly critical about the way ALP was set up in Shindand, told Human Rights Watch that the current ALP members were “not properly vetted according to the MOI directive … as a result, it is difficult to hold anyone accountable when they commit crimes.”[318] He explained that according to the directive, “Village elders are supposed to recommend recruits, and two persons from the village should guarantee that they [ALP recruits] are not member of insurgents, not addicted to drugs or criminals. But this did not happen…. Now if they [ALP] are accused of any crime then who from the village will ensure that they are turned over to the police for investigation. But how will you find them if they run away?”[319]

    Local residents are concerned that members of the LDI have simply been transferred to the ALP without a proper recruitment and vetting process. Indeed, a July 2010 report by a US “Human Terrain Team” entitled “Afghan Local Police in Zeer-e-Koh Valley,” which analyzed the US-led Local Defense Initiative in Zerkow, notes that the “correct term” for LDI individuals is ALP.[320] This suggests a fairly seamless transition from one force to the next, a conclusion shared by government and police officials, as well as some village elders from Zerkow interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The concern expressed by many local residents and Afghan analysts is that the ALP could become another patronage network. This would undermine the spirit of the ALP directive, which seeks to select individuals and not groups for fear that groups are more likely to act out of self-interest rather than loyalty to the state.

    Despite claims by the US that the ALP is an Afghan-led process with recruitment done by elders and approved by the Ministry of Interior and other security forces, in practice US special operations forces appear to have been heavily involved in the recruitment of ALP members in Shindand. A police official who did not wished to be named told Human Rights Watch that although lists for ALP membership were drawn up by government officials and villagers, special operations forces were also involved and they appeared to have the final say on who joins the ALP. For instance, the head of recruitment from the Herat police and District Governor Omerzai said that they had recommended around 190-200 people for the ALP,[321] but in interviews in mid-February 2011 we learned that the men had been rejected by special operations forces.[322]

    However, in April 2011, ISAF spokesperson Lt. Col. John Dorrian told Human Rights Watch that in Shindand, “The conversion of the LDI members to ALP members was not automatic. ALP members are recruited and sponsored by the local district shura. There is buy-in from the Provincial Governor, Provincial Chief of Police, District Governor, District Chief of Police, and District Shura.”[323]


Abuses by the ALP in Shindand District


    Credible allegations of a retaliatory raid by the ALP on a village in the Zerkow valley in February 2011 heighten concerns that ALP forces can commit abuses with impunity. Even if the raid were permissible under the ALP’s terms of reference, ALP personnel were accused of destruction of property, arbitrary detention, and theft. In a separate case, ALP status appears to be shielding investigation of a person allegedly involved in an extrajudicial killing.


Retaliatory Raid and Looting in the Zerkow Valley


    On February 18, 2011, three ALP officers were attacked by unknown men riding on motorcycles in the northern part of Zerkow valley.[324] Later that day, the ALP conducted a raid of several homes in nearby Masiyan village. Mohammed D. (pseudonym) told Human Rights Watch that the raid appeared to be in retaliation for the ambush on the ALP:
Last Friday, February 18, 2011, around 12:30 p.m. … someone on a motorbike attacked ALP commander Ghani in the bazaar and this commander collected his people and came to my village…. That same day, they came in two Rangers and three to four Corollas to our village and on loudspeaker announced that there was an attack on their commander. I immediately rushed into my house, I told my family members to stay away. I live in a compound with my brothers and family.
The ALP men came to my house. They killed my dog, fired in the air, frightening the family, and searched inside my house. There were 70,000 Afghanis[US$1,555] that my brother and I had in the house. My hands were tied up. They took my new shoes, my money. They tied my hands and put me in the back of a white car. I was pushed and beaten and my nose started to bleed. My house is in the beginning of the village, so mine was one of the first that was raided and then the other houses.[325]
    Safiullah K. (pseudonym) described the raid on his house:
I saw armed men coming to the village. They were firing in the air. One person put a machine gun on top of a house and was firing, which created a lot of noise. The women and children were scared. I went to tell my family, but the arbakis stopped me from going inside the house by firing in front of me on the ground. They ordered my family, women and children and one of the elders, out of the house. They wanted to search the house and did not let us go in with them. They took our shoes, clothes, coats, new turbans, and meat from the house. They destroyed curtains. There were 4,000 to 5,000 Afghanis [US$88 to 111] under the rug. Wheat that was stored in a jar was thrown on the floor. The fertilizer was scattered.… My children have been frightened because of the firing and wake up at night screaming that the arbakis  are coming.[326]
    Mohammed D. said that the ALP took six men, including him, his cousin, and Safiullah K. from their village to the gate of the nearest special operations forces base where the “Americans tested our hands for gun residue. But they [Americans] said no gun residue was found.”[327]

U.S. Trainer
According to Mohammed D., although none of the six men tested positive for gun residue on their hands, only four were released by the ALP. He and his cousin were taken to the police station:
We were kept in a cell at the police station for two days. The police chief Daoud said that he knew we were innocent but the ALP is powerful and they suspected that we were involved in the attack. Village elders went to the police to release us. Daoud mediated the talks between the village elders and the ALP commanders and we were finally released.[328]
    Mohammed D.’s account was confirmed by a village elder who secured his release,[329] and by the chief of police, Col. Daoud, who confirmed that the ALP searched houses in Masiyan.[330]

    Mohammed D. says that the money taken from his house was not returned by the ALP. “I did not tell anyone about the money. Perhaps this is why I was released. If I complain about my money being taken then I will be harassed again.”[331]


Cruel Treatment


    An elder, Rabbani W. (pseudonym), from the village of Masiyan told Human Rights Watch that he and other elders from the village assisted 17-year-old Agha J. (pseudonym) after he and his brother had been beaten, had nails hammered into Agha J.’s feet, and detained by the ALP in June 2011.[332]

    According to Rabbani W., two brothers, Agha J., 17, and Ahmad J., 18 (pseudonyms), were detained by the ALP on suspicion that they were involved in the planting of IEDs that had exploded two days earlier. The brothers were taken to the ALP base. Two days later Agha J.  was taken to the police.[333] Rabbani W. said:
Other elders and I went to the ALP base to collect Agha J. He had been beaten and nails had been hammered into his feet. We took him to the hospital in Herat city for immediate treatment. Later the family took him to Pakistan for more treatment.[334]
    Another elder, Qayyum W. (pseudonym), corroborated the story, telling Human Rights Watch that he went with Rabbani W. to retrieve Agha J. from the ALP base and saw that Agha J. had been beaten and had nails hammered in his feet.[335]
According to Rabbani W.:
Agha J.’s family had a shop near his house and most of the times the ALP armed men were demanding him to give him the goods and pay him later and Agha J. did not do that kind of business with them so they accused him and his brother of planting the landmine. One is with the police and the other had nails put in his feet…. People are worried about all ALP presence in Shindand, and everyone in the villages is trying to obey them as they fear the same thing will happen to them as happened to Agha J.”[336]
    Human Rights Watch called the Shindand chief of police about the case, but he did not want to discuss the case.[337] At the time of this writing, Human Rights Watch was unable to speak directly with Agha J. as he was getting treatment in Pakistan.


ALP Status and Impunity


    Lal Mohammed from Bakhtabad village told Human Rights Watch that his father Rostum Khan, 70, and his brother Nesar Ahmed, 21, were killed while in a car on October 31, 2010, by two men, one affiliated with the Taliban, the other with the ALP.[338]

Afghan children casualties
Lal Mohammed said that his 18-year-old brother and a nephew were in the car and witnessed the killings, but managed to escape. Human Rights Watch was not able to interview the witnesses. They named one of the perpetrators as an ALP member who manned a checkpoint in Bakhtabad under the control of “Commander” Ameer Mohammed.[339] Lal Mohammed said that, according to his relatives who survived the incident, men fired upon the car which had stopped in Bakhtabad village. Mohammed’s younger brother and nephew managed to escape from the car.[340]

    Colonel Sarwar, the former provincial police chief of Herat, told Human Rights Watch that in January 2011 the authorities arrested a person who had given shelter to the two suspects and referred the case for prosecution. Sarwar confirmed that one of the suspects is with the ALP, but he is unaware if any action has been taken against him. [341] At this writing, the current chief of police, Col. Daud, was unaware of the status of the investigation.

Lal Mohammed told Human Rights Watch:
I went to Special Forces and complained that one of the ALP commanders killed my father. They told me that this is not their business and that I should talk to the police. I went to the chief of police in Shindand and was told they cannot do anything because Special Forces are supporting ALP, we cannot go challenge them. I don’t know the politics but I personally went to Special Forces and told them about my father. I spoke to a Commander Rick from the Special Forces, but now he has changed. Captain Paul from Special Forces said that it’s not his business, go talk to chief of police, but the police say talk to Special Forces.[342]
    When Human Rights Watch asked Lal Mohammed why his father was killed, he said: “Killing good people is good. In Shindand one brother can be Taliban and another ALP. The governor told us that ALP will work, but it does not. They are all criminals and promote violence.”[343]
The ALP in Uruzgan

    Uruzgan province has been plagued by deteriorating security and a resurgence of the Taliban. ANSO reported a 90 percent increase in insurgent attacks in the first quarter of 2011 compared to 2010.[344]The Afghan Local Police has been set up in several districts in Uruzgan—Char China, Chora, Deh Rawud, and Khas Uruzgan.

    The US military claims that the ALP (and its precursor LDI) have been successful in Gizab.[345] Human Rights Watch has not examined the performance of the ALP in Gizab in depth so we cannot assess the military’s claims. Two Gizab residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch were happy that the Taliban were overthrown and welcomed the assistance of the US military, saying they had been requesting help for some time.[346] But they also expressed concerns about the new local arbakai empowered in their place. Abdul M. (pseudonym), an elder, said:
The arbaki have managed to kick out the Taliban and insurgents from most parts of Gizab district. At the same time the arbaki also disturb and insult the people in the Gizab. People and the elders are not happy with their attitude.… They are all the kind of people who are involved in many crimes previously, and most of the time they are on drugs and have other bad habits, like keeping young boys.[347]
    An international official told Human Rights Watch that recruitment in Gizab was done with acute awareness of local tribal and ethnic sensitivities. The official told us: “One of the main concerns was making it [the ALP] representative. But there are both Pashtuns and Hazaras in the ALP. Both sides want to be free from Taliban control.”[348] Uruzgan’s largely rural community is primarily Pashtun, with pockets of ethnic Hazaras.[349]

    Human Rights Watch was unable to assess the tribal and ethnic makeup of the new force. However, Ramin F. (pseudonym), an elder and a local farmer in Gizab, complained to Human Rights Watch about the recruitment process:
Anyone who obeys the commanders’ orders, and anyone who is on drugs, these are the people that were recruited.… Many of them have a background in the Taliban or insurgency, and they don’t respect the people, and they are rude when talking to the people.[350]


ALP in Khas Uruzgan


    Human Rights Watch received complaints about communities coming under pressure to sign up to the ALP in Khas Uruzgan. In Khas Uruzgan the ALP is headed by former Taliban member Mullah Neda Muhammed, who was appointed as ALP commander in September 2010. Neda Muhammed was alleged to have led the forcible recruitment of men into the ALP.[351]

    On December 4, 2010, Mullah Nedam Muhammed invited elders from several villages of Khas Uruzgan district to a meeting, at which he requested that the elders either provide a man for an arbaki, understood to be the ALP, or give him 15,000 Afghanis (US$330). Some of the elders refused his order, arguing that in 2009 they provided men as arbakis but had lost many to the Taliban.[352] Six elders who refused to give men to the ALP were detained by Mullah Neda Muhammed after the meeting, while another was detained five days later. According to interviews with Human Rights Watch, the men were held in a detention facility at the district governor's compound for several days. Two of the men were held for over a month before being released.[353]

Civilians continue to die in increasing numbers from ALP, U.S. fire
A prosecutor in Uruzgan told Human Rights Watch that he has received complaints that some ALP members in Khas Uruzgan are asking money as religious tax from the farmers. He explained: “They demand money from businessmen and wealthy people, they are asking money from the vehicles that gets in and out of the Khas Uruzgan, they arrest people and imprison them in their own private jails.”[354] When Human Rights Watch asked whether any formal complaint had been filed against any ALP member, the prosecutor replied: “Victims don’t want to file official complaints as they are afraid [what will happen] if the ALP members find out about the submission of complaints against them.”[355]

    A member of the provincial council from Uruzgan, who wished to remain anonymous, told Human Rights Watch about cases received by the council alleging involvement of ALP members in beatings and imprisonment of persons in private jails.[356] He cited one case of abuse of power in which a man was beaten up by an ALP member who demanded money for land sold 15 years ago. He expressed concern that the ALP was stirring up tribal and family rivalries:
In Khas Uruzgan there are many family and tribal conflicts and if one tribe or a family member have joined the ALP then the opposing tribe or family has to respond, either becoming ALP members or joining the Taliban to protect their family. If not, the ALP commander will use his weapons and power to see vengeance in old family or tribal disputes that could be up 50 years old.[357]
     Recent abuses by the ALP in Khas Uruzgan have also been documented by the Afghanistan Analyst Network, which found that in June 2011 ALP units were involved in raids without the involvement of international or national police forces, beating, and killing several men. [358] 


[207] Ministry of Interior-Afghan Local Police, current as of June, 2011 (“ALP MOI Directive 2011”).

[208] President Karzai gave his approval for the ALP on July 14, 2010. Sayed Salahuddin,“Karzai approves plan for new Afghan police force,” Reuters, July 15, 2010, (accessed February 7, 2011).

[209] DoD 1230 Afghanistan Progress Report April 2011, p. 63.

[210] According to the US Department of Defense, as of March 2011 there were over 125,589 Afghan National Police (ANP) and over 150,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel. The goal is to increase ANP numbers to 134,000 and ANA to 171,600 by October 2011. It is currently projected that by October 2011, total ANSF numbers will reach 315,000.Department of Defense, Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan and United States Plan for Sustaining the Afghanistan National Security Forces, April 2011, pp. 22 and 33 (“DoD 1230 Afghanistan Progress Report April 2011”),  (accessed May 2, 2011).

[211] Human Rights Watch interview with international military official, Kabul, June 4, 2011.

[212]Three percent of Afghan army soldiers are southern Pashtuns. The NATO Rapporteur on Afghanistan concluded that “more needs to be done to ensure ethnic balance… of the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] [which has] serious implications not only for its credibility across the whole of Afghanistan, but also in determining where its loyalty lies.” Sven Mikser, Draft Report, Transition in Afghanistan: Assessing the Security Report, Spring 2011, (accessed June 1, 2011).

[213] Numerous Human Rights Watch interviews with Afghan government officials, diplomats, military and police trainers, and UN officials in Kabul, 2009-10.

[214]Human Rights Watch telephone interview with European official, March 23, 2011.

[215] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with advisor to the commanding general of US special operations forces, June 2, 2011.

[216] To this end, General Petraeus has requested an extra infantry battalion to help special operations forces with the ALP. Statement of General David H. Petraeus, Commander ISAF, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, March 15, 2011, (accessed March 15, 2011).           

[217]Catherine Dale, “War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service, March 9, 2011,

[218] The ALP is financed through the Department of Defense’s Afghan Security Forces Fund. DoD 1230 Afghanistan Progress Report April 2011, p. 62. Human Rights Watch interview with Khan Mohammad Khan, former head of ALP, Kabul, February 22, 2011.

[219] The announcement was made by the Deputy Minister of Interior, Munir Mangal, at a press conference in Kabul. “Afghan Local Police” approved for Village Protection,” NATO Training Mission Afghanistan News Release, August 18, 2010, (accessed April 25, 2011).

[220]ALP MOI Directive 2011. Since January 2011 UK conventional forces have also trained and mentored ALP units in Helmand. According to the Foreign Commonwealth Office, around 150 men have been trained by the UK military. Human Rights Watch has not assessed the ALP in Helmand. Human Rights Watch interview with Robert Collett, UK Foreign Commonwealth Office, London, August 11, 2011.

 [221]ALP MOI Directive 2011.


[223]ALP MOI Directive dated June 26, 2011. The February 2011 ALP directive noted 68 approved districts.

[224] To this end, the commander of ISAF General Petraeus in December 2010 placed a US infantry battalion under the CFSOC-A “to expand the ALP program rapidly.” DoD 2011 Afghanistan Progress Report, p. 62. US generals have spoken to reporters about the possibility of increasing the force to 50,000. Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes, and Matthew Rosenberg, “U.S. Builds Afghan Village Force,” The Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2011, (accessed January 31, 2011); Matthew Green, “Petraeus aims to triple security scheme to arm Afghan recruits,”The Financial Times, February 8, 2011, (accessed February 8, 2011). An ALP force, tashkil, is typically 30 per village and 300 per district.

[225] ALP MOI Directive dated February 10, 2011.

[226]DoD 2011 Afghanistan Progress Report, p. 62; see also Statement of General David H. Petraeus, Commander ISAF, Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, March 15, 2011, (accessed March 15, 2011).

[227]Human Rights Watch interview with international officials, Kabul, February 23, 2011.

[228] Email exchange with Human Rights Watch from Capt. Justin Brockhoff, ISAF Joint Command, August 4, 2011.

[229] ALP MOI Directive 2011.

[230]Human Rights Watch interview with Gen. Khan Mohammad Khan, Kabul, October 27, 2010.

[231]ALP MOI Directive 2011.

[232] Human Rights Watch interview with advisor to the Ministry of Interior, Kabul, February 22, 2011.

[233] The US military claims some success with the ALP and its forerunner, the Local Defense Initiative, most commonly citing Gizab in Uruzgan province and Arghandab in Kandahar province. Human Rights Watch interview with US military official, Kabul, September 27, 2010. Human Rights Watch has not investigated the ALP in Gizab or Arghandab in depth. One journalist reported that locals in Arghandab alleged that some members of the ALP have been involved in beatings, robbery, and even the murder of a livestock trader. Ben Farmer, “US-Funded Afghan Militias Beat, Rob and Kill with Impunity,” The Telegraph, June 20, 2011.

[234] Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, “ANSO Quarterly Data Report Q.4, January 1-December 21, 2010,” p. 12, (accessed March 25, 2011).

[235] “HezbFighters to Support GovtAgainst Taliban,” The Frontier Post, March 9, 2010, March 2010, Afghan officials announced that 70 fighters, including 11 commanders, with Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin would support Afghan security forces against the Taliban in Baghlan); see also Michael Glick, “Plan to Convert Talib, Create Defense Force has Peril and Promise,” Stars and Stripes, September 29, 2010.

[236] UNAMA and AIHRC, Afghanistan Annual Report 2010 Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, p. 42, March 2011.

[237] Human Rights Watch interview with Jahangir Jawan, Secretary of Baghlan Provincial Council, Pul-e-Khumri, March 14, 2011.

[238] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Rasul Mohsini, Chief of Provincial Council of Baghlan, Kabul, February 20, 2011.

[239] Ibid.

[240] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Rasul Mohsini, Chief of Provincial Council of Baghlan, Kabul, February 20, 2011.

[241] Ibid.

[242] Joshua Paltrow, “US Efforts to Arm Afghan Villagers Carries Some Risk,” The Washington Post, February 7, 2011, (accessed February 18, 2011).

[243] Gran Hewad, “When the Police Goes Local: More on the Baghlan ALP,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, (accessed March 24, 2011).

[244] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with local security officials, April 14, 2011, and with local residents, Pul-e-Khumri, March 14, 2011.

[245] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sher Jan (pseudonym), May 2, 2011.

[246] Ibid.

[247]Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Qudratullah, Chief of Police District 3, April 14, 2011.

[248] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Gen. Gulab, head of ALP Baghlan, April 14, 2011.

[249] Human Rights Watch interview with Lal Mohammed, Pul-e-Khumri, March 14, 2011.See also, Joshua Paltrow, “US Efforts to Arm Afghan Villagers Carries Some Risk,” The Washington Post, February 7, 2011, (accessed February 18, 2011).

[250] It is unclear what kind or how much training this particular unit received.

[251] Human Rights Watch interview with local human rights official, Pul-e-Khumri, March 13, 2011, and telephone interview with security official, March 27, 2011.

[252] Michael Glick, “Plan to Convert Talib, Create Defense Force has Peril and Promise,” Stars and Stripes, September 29, 2010.

[253] Human Rights Watch interview with Lal Mohammed Jan, Pul-e-Khumri, March 14, 2011.See also Michael Glick, “Plan to Convert Talib, Create Defense Force has Peril and Promise,” Stars and Stripes, September 29, 2010.

[254] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Amir Mohammed, April 29, 2011.

[255] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lal Mohammed Jan, March 30, 2011.

[256] Human Rights Watch interview with Lal Mohammed Jan, Pul-e-Khumri, March 14, 2011.

[257] Michael Glick, “Plan to Convert Talib, Create Defense Force has Peril and Promise,” Stars and Stripes, September 29, 2010.

[258] The applicable body of law depends on whether this was an armed conflict situation, in which case international humanitarian law (the laws of war) is applicable, or the government had effective control of the areas, in which case it may have been a law enforcement situation governed by international human rights law. The laws of war only permit attacks on military objectives. Civilian deaths that result from an attack on a military objective are not unlawful so long as the attack is not indiscriminate or causes disproportionate loss of civilian life or property that exceeds the expected military gain of the attack. See International Committee of the Red Cross (CRC), Customary International Humanitarian Law  (Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005), chapters 3 and 4. Common article 3 which is applicable during both international and non-international armed conflict prohibits “at any time and in any place whatsoever … violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.”In a law enforcement context, lethal force may be used only when there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury and its use is strictly unavoidable to protect life. See United Nations, Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, principle 9, Eighth U.N. Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, August 27 to September 7 1990, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.144/28/Rev.1 at 112 (1990), United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, art. 3, adopted December 17, 1979, G.A. res. 34/169, annex, 34 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 46) at 186, U.N. Doc. A/34/46 (1979).

[259] See ICRC, Customary International Humanitarian Law, ch. 5.

[260] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Rasul Mohsini, Chief of Provincial Council of Baghlan, Kabul, February 20, 2011.

[261] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Farid H. (pseudonym), a relative of Ghulam Jan, June 22, 2011.

[262] Ibid.

[263] Ibid.

[264] Ibid.

[265] Ibid.

[266] Human Rights Watch interview with official (who did not wished to be named) with the Criminal Investigation Division, Pul-e-Khumri, March 15, 2011.

[267] Human Rights Watch interview with Amir S. (pseudonym), Pul-e-Khumri, March 14, 2011.

[268] Ibid.

[269] Ibid.

[270] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mullah Sayed Nur, April 20, 2011.

[271] Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, G.A. res. 47/133, 47 U.N. GAOR Sup8p. (No. 49) at 207, U.N. Doc.A/47/49 (1992).

[272] Human Rights Watch interview with Amir S., Pul-e-Khumri, March 14, 2011.

[273] Ibid.

[274] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with official from Baglan CID who did not wished to be named, May 22, 2011.

[275] Human Rights Watch interview with Mir W. (pseudonym), Pul-e-Khumri, March 15, 2011.

[276] Ibid.

[277] Ibid.

[278] Ibid.

[279] Ibid.

[280] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Akram Khan, chief, Fourth Police District of Baghlan, May 18, 2011.

[281] MOI ALP Directive 2011.

[282] Human Rights Watch interview with Jummah Gul, Pul-e-Khumri, March 15, 2011.

[283] Human Rights Watch interview with Jummah Gul, Kabul, June 21, 2011.

[284] Human Rights Watch interview with Jummah Gul, Pul-e-Khumri, March 15, 2011.

[285] Ibid.

[286] Human Rights Watch interview with Jummah Gul, Kabul, June 21, 2011.

[287] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Mohammad Ashraf, Baghlan Prosecutor’s Office, June 21, 2011.

[288] Ibid.

[289] Human Rights Watch interview with Rafiq M. (pseudonym), Kabul, June 25, 2011.

[290] Ibid.

[291] Petition from Rafiq M. to Gen. Ahmadzai, June 16, 2011, copy on file with Human Rights Watch.

[292] “The ANSO Report,” Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, Issue 61, November 1-15, 2010, p. 12. (accessed February 6, 2011).

[293] Human Rights Watch interviews with village elders, Herat, December 4, 2010, and January 18, 2011.

[294] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sayed Omar Agha, Director of the Recruitment Department, Herat Ansar Police Zone 606, December 6, 2010.

[295] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Chief of Police, Col. Mohammed Daoud, March 26, 2011.

[296] Human Rights Watch interview with District Governor Lal Mohammad Omerzai, Herat, February
24, 2011.

[297] Human Rights Watch interview with Gen. Said Eftikhari, Commander of ANCOP, 606 Ansar Police Zone, Herat, December 6, 2010.

[298] Human Rights Watch interview with General Delawar Shah Delawari, former Provincial Police Chief of Herat Police, Herat, December 6, 2010.

[299] Ibid.

[300] Senate Armed Services Committee, “Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan – Report,” September 28, 2010, p.2, (accessed June 1, 2011).

[301] For more on the Azizabad bombing and the role of US Special Operations forces and local armed groups see Letter from Human Rights Watch to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on “US Airstrikes in Azizabad, Afghanistan,” See also Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: US Should Cooperate With Afghan Investigation Into Apparent Death at Base,” news release, June 22, 2009 (section entitled Background on US ties to Local Armed Factions). See also Senate Armed Services Committee, “Inquiry into the Role and Oversight of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan – Report,” September 28, 2010, pp. 6-36,

[302] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with local officials, February and March 2009. Nick Meo, “Afghan villager sentenced to death for 'wrong information' which caused bombing tragedy,” The Telegraph, February 28, 2009. (accessed February 6, 2011). At this writing, Nader is imprisoned in Herat and is awaiting a final adjudication from the courts. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. According to Qazi Mir Ahmad, Chief Judge of the Shindand Primary Court, two additional suspects involved in the Azizabad incident were arrested by the Herat police in 2011. Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Qazi Mir Ahmad, Chief Judge of Shindand Primary Court, April 10, 2011.

[303] Human Rights Watch interview with Herat Chief of Police, General Esmatullah Alizai, Herat, April 7, 2009. Human Rights Watch interview with Lutful Hadi, head of criminal intelligence, Herat, April 7, 2009, and GulPacha, who was present when Agha Mohammad was detained by the group, Herat city, April 8 2009.

[304] Police photographs and Ministry of Public Health autopsy received from government officials, April 2009, and on file with Human Rights Watch.

[305] Human Rights Watch interview with Herat Chief of Police, Gen. Esmatullah Alizai, Herat, April 7, 2009, and the head of Criminal Intelligence of the Police, Gen. Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, Kabul, May 11, 2009.

[306] Human Rights Watch interview with a senior ANA officer who requested anonymity, Herat, December 5, 2010.

[307] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed Qasim Stanekzai, head of the High Peace Council and advisor to the President, Kabul, February 19, 2011.

[308] Human Rights Watch interview with village elders, Herat, December 4, 2010.

[309] Ibid.

[310] In December 2010 and February 2011 Human Rights Watch interviewed elders from both Noorzais and Barakzais tribes from Zerkow valley who admitted that there was longstanding rivalry between the tribes.

[311] Human Rights Watch interview with village elder who requested anonymity, Herat, February 23, 2011.

[312] Human Rights Watch with village elders Mohammed Wazir and Raheem, Herat, February 24, 2011.

[313] Ibid.

[314] Human Rights Watch interviews with local human rights officials, February and March, 2011.

[315] Letter from Shindand District Council to the Recruitment Department of Ansar Police Zone, October 23, 2010 (on file with Human Rights Watch). The letter is signed by 38 council members.

[316] Human Rights Watch interview with village elders, Herat, December 2010. Amanullah was assassinated allegedly by insurgents in December 2010.

[317] ALP MOI Directive 2011.

[318] Human Rights Watch interview with Lal Mohammad Omarzai, District Governor of Shindand, Herat, February 24, 2011.

[319] Ibid.

[320] A Human Terrain Team is a group of anthropologists employed by the US military to assist their awareness of local tribal/political/cultural dynamics. “Afghan Local Police in Zeer-e-Koh Valley: Populace Perspectives and a Linguistic Anthropological Assessment,”Human Terrain Analysis Team-AF15, In Support of Regional Command West and the Zeer-e-Koh Valley, Village Stability Program, Shindand District, Heart Province, July 24, 2010 (“US Military ALP Assessment July 2010” on file with Human Rights Watch).

[321]Human Rights Watch interview with Lal Mohammad Omarzai, Deputy District Governor of Shindand, February 24, 2011. Human Rights Watch interview with Sayed Omar Agha, chief of the Recruitment Department, Heart Ansar Police Zone, 606, December 6, 2010, and telephone interview with GhulamSarwar, Chief District Police of Shindand, January 6, 2010.

[322] Human Rights Watch interview with Lal Mohammad Omarzai, Deputy District Governor of Shindand, February 24, 2011.

[323] Human Rights Watch email exchange with Lt. Col. John Dorrian, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) press spokesman, April 13, 2011. 

[324] ANSO Report, “In Shindand, tensions regarding the Afghan Local Police (ALP) have continued ... on the 18th [of February], two AOG [Armed Opposition Groups] members riding on a motorcycle shot and injured three ALP members in the northern part of Zirko Valley.” ANSO Bi-Weekly Report, Issue No. 28, February 16-28, 2011.

[325] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed D. (pseudonym), Herat, February 23, 2011.

[326] Human Rights Watch interview with Safiullah K. (pseudonym), Herat, February 23, 2011. This was the second time that Safiullah K. was taken by for questioning to special operations forces by people he referred to as “arbakis.” Safiullah K. told us that in January 2011, a month prior to the raid on his house, he was tilling his land when he was captured by people he referred to as arbakis. Along with six other men, he was taken by men he said were working under Deen Mohammed and Ameer Mohammed to a special operations forces base. Safiullah K. explained, “They told the Special Forces that we were Taliban and were planting IEDs. The translator asked if they found any evidence to support this claim. The arbakis said that they heard a motorbike and a hole was dug where an IED would be planted. At the base, we were separated and the Americans put a scanner on our body and hands. They did not find anything and we were told that we would be released. It was evening time, I told the Americans that we cannot trust the arbakis because on the way back to our village we may be killed. The translator for the Americans warned the arbakis to drop us from the same place that we were picked up and if anything happens to anyone of us then they will know who is responsible.”

[327] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed D. (pseudonym), Herat, February 23, 2011.

[328] Ibid.

[329] Human Rights Watch interview with village elder who wished to remain anonymous, Herat, February 23, 2011.

[330] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Chief of Police, Shindand, Col. Mohammed Daoud, March 26, 2011.

[331] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammed D. (pseudonym), Herat, February 23, 2011.

[332] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Rabbani W. (pseudonym), July 30, 2011.

[333] Ibid.

[334] Ibid.

[335] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Qayyum W. (pseudonym), July 12, 2011.

[336] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Rabbani W. (pseudonym), July 30, 2011.

[337] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Col. Daud, Chief of Police, Shindand District, July 30, 2011.

[338] Human Rights Watch interview with Lal Mohammed, Herat, February 23, 2011.

[339] Ibid. A local official, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that Mirza worked as an ALP in Bakhtabad although he did not know when Mirza joined ALP. Human Rights Watch interview Herat, February 2011 and follow up telephone interview May 2011.

[340] Ibid.

[341] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with former Shindand Chief of Police Col. Ghulam Sarwar, March 30, 2011.

[342] Human Rights Watch interview with Lal Mohammed, Herat, February 23, 2011.

[343] Ibid.

[344] “ANSO Quarterly Data Report Q.4 2010,” January 2011, (accessed June 28, 2011).

[345] Until recently Gizab was in Uruzgan province but now is administratively part of neighboring Dai Kundi province.

[346] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with two elders from Gizab, March 5, 2011.

[347] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Abdul M., pseudonym, March 5, 2011.

[348] Human Rights Watch interview with international official, Kabul, February 23, 2011.

[349] Tensions between the two communities are high for a variety of reasons. One factor is that the  Afghan National Police in the area is predominantly composed of Hazaras who have assisted ISAF in conducting house searches which are predominantly Pashtun.The Liaison Office, “The Dutch Engagement in Uruzgan: 2006-2010,”August 2010, available at–%20TLO%20Report%202010%20WEB.pdf (accessed June 28, 2011). For ethnic makeup, see “Uruzgan Provincial Profile,” The Ministry for Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), p. 2,

[350] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ramin F., March 5, 2011.

[351] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with two elders from Khas Uruzgan, January 4 and 6, 2011, and telephone interview with human rights officials, February 13, 2011. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, “Annual Report 2010 Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict,” March 2011, p.69. (accessed March 13, 2011). 

[352] Human Rights Watch phone interview with elder from Uruzgan, January 6, 2010.

[353] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with two elders from Khas Uruzgan, January 4 and 6, 2011, and telephone interview with human rights officials, February 13, 2011. One elder in Khas Uruzgan told Human Rights Watch that the following people were detained on December 4, 2010, Obaidullah, son of Mohammad Sarwar, Abdul Hamid, son of Mohammad Hanif, Abdul Jabbar, son of Haji Hussian, Tur Jan, son of Mohammad Hashim, Abdurraziq, son of Amir Mohammad and Abdul Hadi, son of Mohammad Naem. On December 9Khudai Rahim was arrested.

[354] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with prosecutor from Uruzgan, July 20, 2011.

[355] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with prosecutor from Uruzgan, July 20, 2011.

[356] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with member of provincial council of Uruzgan, July 20, 2011.

[357] Ibid.

[358] Martine van  Bijlert, “Khas Uruzgan and ISAF Press Releases,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, June 26, 2011, available at (accessed June 26,  2011). AAN reported that on June 13, 2011, a Hazara dominated ALP unit led a raid on their own in Pashtun villages in the Abparan and Hosseni areas. A larger number of houses were raided, men were beaten, and one man was shot and killed in the process. Four men were held at the ALP checkpoint initially and later handed to the US military and where they reportedly were released after three days. According to the AAN, the motivation for the raid and detention of Pashtun men was that Pashtuns had taken four Hazara travelers hostage on June 13. The Hazara men were released after the Pashtun men were detained. The Pashtuns claimed that the raid was unprovoked and those targeted were innocent. AAN reported that on the same day, June 13, ALP commander Neda Muhammed’s nephew was killed by the Taliban. His brother, who is also with the ALP, raided the homes of the Taliban district governor and his deputy, killing four men. The following day the Taliban attacked Neda Mohammed’s ALP with an IED. Neda Mohammed’s son and another brother were injured and three men were killed.

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