Chahrdara, an embattled district in Kunduz province, is a miniature model for all of Afghanistan’s larger conflicts. Traditionally a hotbed of the insurgency, military interventions could never bring lasting change, so Chahrdara – under heavy foreign siege in 2010 (1) – is back to where it was: a Taleban stronghold in the north. At the same time, the Afghan Local Police (ALP) deployed to the district, set up to fight the insurgency, add to the problems in a startling way – they fight not only against Taleban, but also against civilians and among themselves. AAN’s guest author Lola Cecchinel, who has been doing research in the area for the past year, puts this one district of Afghanistan under the magnifying glass and presents layers and causes of conflicts along but also across ethnic and political lines.
On 13 April this year, a group of Taleban blocked the road to the village Nahr-e Sufi in Chahrdara, Kunduz province, and searched all vehicles. The search lasted for one hour. The Taleban had set up the checkpoint to find Sher Arab, an ALP commander, who had managed to escape the area one hour before. They reportedly dragged passengers out of their cars, looked into their phones and threatened them to never cooperate with the ALP or they would be severely punished. As was seen country wide since the beginning of the Taleban’s spring offensive (read our initial analysis here: http://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/after-the-operational-pause-how-big-is-the-insurgents-2013-spring-offensive), the ALP is the Taleban’s primary target. This is so in Chahrdara where the ALP program was initiated in 2010 and where recruitment began in 2011 (read here and here) as well as in other districts of Kunduz where the program was also initiated three years ago.(2) Ali Shah Ahmadzai, general director of the ALP at the Ministry of the Interior told AAN in a phone interview that of the 300 ALP deployed so far, “16 ALP were killed and 18 wounded.”
Once the search was over, several ALP commanders of neighbouring areas, including Gul Ahmad, Abdul Wahab, Nasir Ruz and Nazar, turned up at the scene and ransacked the village, which is predominantly Pashtun, looking for the insurgents. A witness of the incident interviewed for the author’s research reported that residents were pulled out of their houses, yelled at and threatened with death if they did not give names and locations of insurgents. One resident was taken to the NDS in Kunduz and accused of hosting two suicide bombers in his home and permitting their escape from the district. The arrested man was the brother of Allah Mohammad, one of the commanders of the Taleban in Chahrdara.(3)
Residents of Nahr-e Sufi, as well as all the other areas in Chahrdara where the ALP has set up to fight the Taleban, are caught between two evils, and it is not clear at all which is the lesser one. On the one hand, the ALP is violently repressing people suspected of supporting insurgents. On the other hand, the Taleban are issuing threats to anyone tempted to cooperate with the government in the district. The Taleban regularly attack ALP check posts and stage ambushes against their commanders in Chahrdara (4). For instance, a local from Aq Khash village (to the west of Chahrdara, north of Mamakhel) interviewed in July 2013 explained: “One of my brothers was in the ALP. The Taleban were warning our relatives every day, so I forced him to quit the ALP and sent him to our sister’s house in Pakistan to protect him.” Taleban threaten ALP recruits and their families with death and occasionally engage in direct confrontation; for instance, in early July near Nawabad (a remote area in western Chahrdara): an off-duty ALP officer was attacked by a group of insurgents. Afghan National Police (ANP) came to his help, but the clash lasted four hours, causing the death of three Taleban and one ANP officer and injuries to twelve civilians. According to a witness, heavy and light weapons were used and several houses in the area were damaged. One of the bullets hit a local mulla’s house, injuring both his wife and daughter. The girl died. In another house a mother with her child and four men of the family were wounded.
The confrontation between the ALP and the Taleban adds a layer of conflict in the quasi-civil war being staged in Kunduz. Today, Chahrdara district, traditionally a hotbed of the insurgency, features levels of insecurity similar to 2009 at the height of the insurgency in the north. Despite intense campaigns of joint ISAF/ANSF operations targeting the Taleban in Chahrdara,(5) the insurgency has regained its strength and now controls much of the area outside the district centre. The establishment of the ALP in 2010, predominantly composed of non-Pashtuns in a district where the majority are Pashtun, has helped revive tensions between Tajiks and Uzbeks versus the Pashtuns, and to a certain extent, it has fostered support – also forcibly – of the Pashtun communities for the Taleban.
After the episode of the beatings in Nahr-e Sufi, a resident told one field researcher: “What is the sin of the poor people to deserve being beaten up by the ALP? Because of the behaviour of the local police, the Taleban could come back again. If the ALP was truly respected among the people, the Taleban would not exist in the region.”
There are two main interests to look at Chahrdara: first, special historical and social settings provide insights into a fragmented, rather anarchic, structure of power where a multitude of actors escape the control of the state. At the same time, the evolution of the situation in Chahrdara is illustrating general trends on the provincial level, notably the increased levels of violence not only between state or semi-state actors and insurgents but also against the civilian population. Previously – with the insurgency concentrating on targeting ISAF convoys and bases as well as national army and national police – violence frequently happened outside of communities. The introduction of a third actor in the equation, the ALP – which is state-supported but at the same time community-embedded and recruited from the local population – has considerably increased local exposure to violence (read this and this).(6) In spring 2012, the Afghan Human Rights Commission reported that the ALP had become the main cause of insecurity and human rights violations in Kunduz, mainly because members of illegal armed groups had been recruited into the ALP units. More recently, in January 2013, a UNAMA report of detainees interviewed in several provinces, found evidence that ten of the twelve detained after being arrested by ALP members had experienced torture or ill-treatment; seven of these ten were from Chahrdara district.
A look back in history
Chahrdara district is one of the seven districts of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan, home to around 70,200 inhabitants; its district centre is located about ten kilometres to the southwest of Kunduz city. It shares borders, among others, with the Baghlan-e Jadid district in Baghlan to the south, another district notorious for being a Taleban stronghold. But this connection does not fully explain the level of today’s insurgency. A look back into its history reveals interesting layers of conflict, all contributing to the current situation.
Chahrdara is a multi-ethnic district reflecting the ethnic distribution of the province. Approximately 60 per cent of the population is Pashtun (mostly from the Omarkhel tribe), followed by Uzbeks (17 per cent), Tajiks (11 per cent), Turkmen (7 per cent) and Arabs (4 per cent).(7) The majority of Pashtuns were settled in the district under the reign of Amir Abdur Rahman Khan (1880–1901), moved there in an attempt to increase state regulation in the north. The forced settlement causes tensions up to today. Tajiks and Uzbeks claim that the Pashtuns were given their land while Pashtuns complain about having been forced onto land that was inappropriate for agriculture, but for which they nevertheless had to pay taxes, laying the ground for future tensions fuelled by three decades of displacement, wars and revenge. Pashtuns are accused of being responsible for the infiltration of insurgents into the district, both in 1997 and again in 2008. Since 2001, they have been subject to harassment and violence in revenge for Taleban crimes (find Human Rights Watch’s April 2002 report here). In turn, Pashtuns fear the domination of other groups in the security apparatus.
Following the end of the Soviet occupation, Chahrdara fell under the control of Hezb-e Islami (Hekmatyar) and one of its most famous commanders, Arbab Mohammad Hashem. Arbab Hashem was an influential Pashtun from the Popalzai tribe, responsible for the infiltration of the Taleban into the district in 1997. Both Hezb-i-Islami and Ittehad-e Islami relied on the predominantly Pashtun population to garner support during the war, which also facilitated the penetration of the Taleban (exclusively Pashtun-composed at that time) in the area. In 1997, as explained in AAN’s report “The Networks of Kunduz”, Hezb and Ittehad had been weakened in their positions and held less territory than before. As a result, many fighters and commanders in the district defected to the Taleban. As Kunduz fell to the insurgents, the Taleban consolidated their bases in the district, notably around Mamakhel, an area in the northwest, with about 500 families, 70 per cent of which are Pashtuns, the rest Uzbeks. Mamakhel is still considered the centre of the movement in Chahrdara.
Chahrdara was decisively captured back by the forces of the Northern Alliance in 2001. Former commanders – Tajiks, Uzbeks, but also former Taleban – benefited from the power vacuum after the ousting of the Taleban to impose themselves as major actors in the district. Arms were available in large numbers, favouring the progressive creation of militias under the control of independent commanders. Families who had fled the fighting returned only to find their property destroyed, looted or occupied (the UNHCR registered 389 returnee families in 2002 alone). In 2001, the district featured high levels of poverty and was inaccessible to even the most basic service providers.(8) Some donors, including USAID and the German government, invested in quick-impact projects in an effort to stabilize the district. However, rehabilitation has been hampered for security reasons. Insecurity on the roads and the many IEDs planted by insurgents have deterred basic service providers as well as humanitarians trying to reach people in need. These factors and the corruption within the district administration and District Development Assembly (DDA, the entity channelling assistance at the district level) concur to explain the slow development process in Chahrdara, compared to other districts such as Imam Sahib.
The resurgence of the Taleban in Chahrdara accompanied their broader penetration of the north from 2008 on (read more in an AAN analysis here and here). Back then, the Taleban leadership steadily established areas of local dominance in the district. They built up alliances with other groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), who were granted shelter in the Taleban’s territories in exchange for their technical and logistical support to the insurgency (read this). In AAN’s paper “The Insurgents of the Afghan North”, authors Giustozzi and Reuters reports that already in “early 2009, a group of Uzbek Taleban, related to IMU, was residing in Chahrdara, led by their own commander with the nom de guerre Mufti Selim”. In addition, as Giustozzi and Reuters point out too, recruitment went on beyond the traditional Pashtun base as a new strategy of the Taleban leadership to extend its influence in areas with no Pashtun majority.
Anxieties, frustration, mistrust
It seems that the Taleban conducted little propaganda in the district, as Chahrdara was fertile soil for recruiting fighters and supporters. Although Pashtuns constitute a majority in Chahrdara, they have been greatly marginalized since the Northern Alliance-backed government was established after 2001. Pashtuns are largely under-represented in the government and the security apparatus, which are dominated by Jamiat members.(9) In addition, until today Pashtuns are reportedly often arrested or beaten by the police on the allegation that they have links with Taleban. In this environment of anxiety, frustration and mistrust, the Taleban were able to extend their shadow government structures considerably. Their activities and “services” to the local people included providing fast and free “justice” (at least compared to the lengthy and corrupt processes in the state institutions) by solving criminal cases such as robbery, bribery and land grabbing through appointed judges and mobile courts (read more about criminal justice in Kunduz here and about how the Taliban run their judiciary here).
The presence of the Taleban inevitably reduced access to state institutions in two ways: First, people were threatened to not take cases to the district government and the district justice personnel to quit their functions in the government. Second, the provision of timely and effective justice (in the sense that enforcement of decisions was ensured immediately) have helped turn locals to the Taleban rather than to the state system. Also, commissions were set up on health and education, and taxes were collected from the population (read here). Shadow governors were successfully assigned to replace those who had been killed in military operations or were forced to flee from the province (read more here, here, here and AAN report The Insurgents of the Afghan North).
By 2009, the district had come under Taleban control for the second time.
From late 2009 to October 2010, Special Operations Forces (SOF) in Chahrdara reacted to this development by launching extensive capture-or-kill operations against Taleban commanders and mobilisers, sometimes up to four in a month (AAN report, The Insurgents of the Afghan North). By late 2010, the government had managed to re-secure parts of Chahrdara and the majority of Taleban commanders in the province had to escape. However, the killing of innocent people during operations together with the frustration caused by the incompetence and corruption of the government had, as in many other regions, already driven locals to join the cause of the insurgency or at least support them by granting shelter or facilitating their movements at night. A report to Congress, “Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan”, released in November 2010, pointed out the impact of corruption and military operations on the growth of the insurgency: “Civilian casualties caused by air and SOF alienated the local populace and fuelled the insurgency. ISAF and its Coalition partners recognize that civilian casualties can undermine efforts to protect the population and create durable security and governance” (page 55) and, “Corruption continues to have a corrosive effect on ISAF efforts in Afghanistan. Afghan perceptions of injustice and the abuse of power fuel the insurgency in many areas more than the Afghan Government’s inability to provide services do” (page 62).
A resident of Qarakhani village (in the district’s southeast) interviewed in the author’s research argued that “the problems that residents of Chahrdara are facing today have their roots in the government’s incapacity and incompetency … If the government was giving jobs to everyone who graduated from university, there wouldn’t be any Taleban or conflicts among people.”
As early as 2011, however, the situation began to change. The Taleban launched several high-profile attacks, including killing the official district governor in January 2011.(10) People reported an increase in IEDs on the roads of the district. Since then, residents have complained about the deteriorating situation: “No sooner had we gotten rid of the Taleban that the Afghan Local Police (ALP) appeared. The ALP is worse than the Taleban” (interview with a resident of Sarak-e Payin, south of Chahrdara).
Predators not guardians
Although the Taleban and ALP are the two main parties in the conflict, the conflicts themselves are not only bilateral. They are multilateral. ALP attack Taleban and vice versa, but the ALP also acts against civilians, as do the Taleban. And then there are the clashes between different ALP units.
A resident in Haji Aman village (south of Chahrdara) interviewed in the research in June this year complained: “I am tired of the Taleban fighting in the area. I cannot sleep at night; I cannot walk openly in my own village during the day. The Taleban are terrorizing us. I have two children who cannot go to school due to Taleban attacks and fighting. Once the Taleban fired on an ALP checkpoint and when the ALP fired back at them they hid themselves among the children who were coming back from school. They were traumatised, and their families too.”
Ethnicity is one component behind the complexity of animosities. According to a diplomatic source who wants to remain anonymous, in Chahrdara, most ALP commanders are Tajiks, Uzbeks or Turkmen who have been appointed by powerbrokers cutting the vetting process short, as already reported (see this previous AAN analysis). They are accused of regularly abusing and assaulting the population, especially the Pashtun majority, against whom they bear strong grudges dating back to the Taleban era in the late 1990s (read here and here). Nevertheless, these commanders and their men have been posted in areas that are predominantly Pashtun.
For instance, in February 2013, local field researchers reported that 30 Turkmen ALP officers under the command of a Turkmen ALP commander named Nasir Ruz were assigned to secure Mamakhel, the historic stronghold of the Taleban. Soon, the Taleban started to carry out attacks against the newly established ALP checkpoint in Mamakhel. In May, a checkpoint on top of the Afundi hill was under siege for three days. Nazir Ruz’s ALP men had nothing to eat or drink for three days and could not risk leaving the hill, as the Taleban were waiting for them. Some locals interviewed by researchers reported that they temporarily left their houses because the insurgents were building trenches in the yards.(11) It is unclear if and to what extent the local population supported the insurgents. An elder of the village said that before the attack, “the Taleban stuck a letter on the wall of the Gul Mohammad mosque warning all farmers they should harvest their crops in the next two weeks because the Taleban planned on attacking the local police soon. They wanted to avoid that wheat fields are burned during the clash.”
Nasir Ruz is also a main character in a story illustrating the next layer of conflict in Chahrdara – among the ALP commanders themselves. Locals report that Commander Nasir Ruz is constantly tussling with Commander Abdul Wahab, like him responsible for ALP units in the Ain-ul-Majar area north of Chahrdara by the river, where both, as locals say, harass the civilian population. On 20 March, however, Nasir Ruz was beaten by unknown armed men. Rumours had it that Nasir Ruz had planned to take down two of the men in Commander Wahab’s unit – locals guess because of a personal dispute – but that the men heard about his plan and assaulted him first. The conflict is unlikely to escalate further, as many fear that Nasir Ruz will retaliate against Wahab. In addition, this internal conflict is fuelled by ethnic issues. Nasir Ruz is Turkmen and Abdul Wahab is Uzbek – and although both are affiliated with Jumbesh, they are rivals, particularly about political leadership.
The deployment of the ALP in Chahrdara, like anywhere else in the country, was intended to increase security where state control was limited or inexistent. The ALP is a key dimension of the US counterinsurgency strategy, which focuses on recruiting locals to fight against insurgents on the basis that they have valuable knowledge of areas (in terms of networks and “human terrain”) that remains inaccessible to the state.
According to the “Procedure on the Regulation and Establishment of the Local Police”, community leaders were to select the members of their community’s ALP unit, and then the Ministry of Interior was to approve the selection. However, under the influence of powerful individuals at the provincial level – notably Mir Alam, Kunduz’ main powerbroker and leader of strong illegal militias but also the chief of police – recruitment often came down to giving a uniform to the local commanders and militiamen (often to Mir Alam’s own men but also to other commanders affiliated with Jumbesh) without consulting or seeking vetting from community elders.(12) Locals also claim that most recruits in Chahrdara are illiterate, have criminal records and lack any kind of knowledge on the rule of law (interviews from November 2012). Because of this flawed recruitment process and poor oversight mechanisms, the creation of the ALP allowed armed groups – labelled “arbaki” by the population – to take advantage of their position to commit abuses against the population.
According to reports published by human rights watchdogs (read here and here), many of them engage in criminal activities such as robbery, beating, rape, property destruction and targeted killings.
The widespread belief among the people of Chahrdara that that some ALP are linked with insurgents groups, and that they opportunistically form alliances to smuggle drugs and arms or stage robberies, probably hails from the fact that former insurgents were integrated into the ALP. Article 17 of the above-mentioned regulations for establishing ALP units clearly says that the “armed opposition members who join the peace process can be recruited and reintegrated along with persons who have not previously taken any part in armed activities if the local council and people guarantee them; MoI intelligence department and other intelligence institutions do not have any reservations against them”.(13)
Forcing civilians to build check posts and defuse IEDs
For the people of Chahrdara, the ALP experiment has failed dramatically. This does not hinder Afghan and international officials from praising the project. On 8 August, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force of the US forces published a piece highlighting the efforts of the ALP in several districts of Kunduz including Chahrdara “to serve their villages with a sense of loyalty”, mentioning also their “desire to see their country develop into a safe place for all Afghans”. It was a lengthy article in which the provincial security leadership eagerly assured that the ALP had contributed to better security, governance and development in Kunduz. Not once were local residents asked their opinion.
Contrary to security leaders, most people of Chahrdara would complain. However, these complaints, even if lodged officially, often do not seem to go anywhere. The number of grievance stories from Chahrdara is startling. For example, on 7 February 2013, about 25 community elders from different areas of Chahrdara, including the relatives of victims of abuses committed by ALP members, visited the district prosecutor’s office to lodge a complaint against ALP Commanders Najib, Ghafar Wahab and Sayed Murad. The victims had filed complaints of harassment before, including with the UNAMA office of Kunduz. During a visit in December in Kunduz, field researchers told the author of this report that Sayed Murad, an ethnic Tajik and the ALP commander in the village Nawabad-e Bala, is known to enjoy mistreating Pashtuns. In November 2012, for example, he was seen beating up a young boy who had stared at him after the commander had slipped and fallen in the mud. He reportedly broke the boy’s arm and smashed his head on the ground. Sayed Murad is also said to be supported by Kunduz’ powerbroker Mir Alam. The three commanders were indeed arrested and their cases were subsequently sent to the office of the public prosecutor of Kunduz province. However, according to informants interviewed in the author’s research, through the interference of “high-ranking officials” the ALP commanders were soon released.(14) Their cases are still under investigation, but Commander Najib has already warned the residents of Chahrdara of dire consequences should they complain about him again.
Another of the three ALP commanders accused of misdemeanour, Najib, a young Pashtun from the Ahmadzai tribe living in Ghundi village, is perceived to be protected by US Special Forces. According to residents interviewed in areas under his control, his group has been extorting money and goods, and they have regularly threatened and assaulted people. UNAMA reported that in January 2013, an ALP sub-commander had forced local people to build his check post. Sources in Chahrdara confirmed that Najib was the commander. In April 2013, he again forced local people, among them children, to find and then defuse an IED that had been planted on the road by insurgents. After the incident, one resident told field researchers: “This is not the first time that Najib has harassed people. But if anyone complains about him, the police chief says that the Americans are supporting commander Najib and that they should complain to them.”
Weakened social fabric
Summarising, locals say that the Afghan Local Police in Chahrdara is operating in competition with rather than under the supervision of the Afghan National Police. This complex power construction along, but also – confusingly – across, ethnic and political lines has much potential to aggravate tensions before and in 2014. And, the ethnic diversity of the population, consecutive waves of displacement and decades of war have profoundly affected the social fabric of communities in Chahrdara. As a result, there is very little social cohesion in the district, and traditional and accepted ways of solving conflict barely exist.
The influence of community elders, for instance, has considerably weakened. They have been subject to enormous pressure from former jihadi commanders on one side and insurgents on the other, both of whom have consistently undermined their authority. Today the elders’ role is limited to solving issues in the realm of family and close community. This weakening coincides with rising levels of ethnic and social fracturing within communities, bearing significant potential for violence. As a result, people have grown more fearful of each other, and ethnic groups are vulnerable to infighting and to outside pressure from political and military actors.
The creation of the ALP in communities where social fractures or ethnic frictions are salient has fostered rather than appeased tensions. The ALP is perceived as particularly mistreating Pashtuns, who are believed to help the Taleban by granting them shelter or even providing them with weapons. Indeed, many abuses such as extortion and physical assault have been reported, especially in communities like Mamakhel where certain parts of the population do support the Taleban. In response, some ALP units in Chahrdara have started to recruit members of the marginalised Pashtun population hoping that this will have a direct impact on the numerical strength of Taleban followers. In some cases, the strategy to arm Pashtuns alarmed other groups who in turn tried to legitimize their own militias through the ALP process. However, it would be inaccurate to conclude that ALP-related violence only affects Pashtuns.
The situation described in the introduction, in which the population is caught between the lines of fire of two warring parties (the ALP – and, more broadly, the government forces – and the Taleban), compels people to choose a side; they most often decide along lines of ethnic affiliation and according to personal experiences of violence.
The opportunity to stay out of the conflict, however, is not an option anymore.
(1) Operations were launched as early as summer 2009 – Operation Adler in August – and then in November, but took on a more sustained rhythm in 2010. This report from 2011, “Reversing the Northeastern Insurgency” by the Institute for the Study of War, lists operations led in the south and north of the district in 2010.
(2) The question remains whether this number given for the past one and a half years is accurate. The author’s field researchers’ collection of incidents amounts to nine ALP dead in Chahrdara in May, June and July 2013 alone; see footnote 4 (which does not claim to be a complete list). One explanation could be that – as attachments to the official ALP – illegal militias support the ALP’s work and their deaths are being included in the population’s reports to the field researchers. In the public’s perception, militias blur easily. Another explanation could be that the government tries to “talk” numbers down to influence the public perception of the Afghan war.
The spokesman for the Ministry of Interior announced in early July an increase in the deaths of Afghan police members throughout the country, mounting to 300 Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) for the month of May alone. In addition, 618 policemen were injured.
(3) When the ALP was created in the province, Allah Mohammad, called “Pahlawan”, had escaped to Pakistan. He apparently returned in June 2013. According to field researchers involved in the author’s research, Said Sarwar Husaini, the police spokesperson of Kunduz explained that Allah Muhammad was killed in August during a four-hour-long fight with the ALP. “Pahlawan” Allah Mohammad was a well-known Taleban commander who fought for several years against foreign troops and ANSF in Chahrdara. He had about 25 men under his command. Local residents reported that his funeral ceremony took place on Saturday, 12 August, in Kolabe village, an area under the control of the Taleban.
(4) The UNAMA Afghanistan mid-year report 2012 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict already documented the number of attacks on the ALP by the Taleban: “From January to June 2012, UNAMA documented 72 civilian casualties, 14 civilians killed and 58 others injured, in 23 separate incidents where Anti-Government Elements attacked ALP”.
The 2013 mid-year report confirmed the trend: “UNAMA observed that the dynamics of transition broadened the scope for clashes between Pro-Government Forces and Anti-Government Elements as both parties fought to secure or regain territory. . . . Within these figures, the most dramatic increase is attacks against ALP that also caused civilian casualties. In 2013, UNAMA documented 18 attacks initiated by Anti-Government Elements targeting ALP, which resulted in 19 civilian deaths and 162 injured (180 civilian casualties), a 1,900 percent increase from 2012.”
A SIGAR report released in April 2013 states: “Insurgents attack ALP units up to 10 times more often than other ANSF components.”
Following is a list of incidents involving the ALP and the Taleban reported by surveyors in the research for the months of April, May, June and July (all were collected by field researchers in the course of the author’s research):
1. On 7 April, fighting broke out between the ALP and the Taleban in Zakhail area of Chahrdara. The fire fight happened close to a residential area and lasted for a short time. The fighting did not inflict any casualties or damage.
2. On 11 May, a newly established ALP checkpoint in Nawabad was targeted by the insurgents. Since the ANP and the German PRT were present in Nawabad, no ALP checkpoint had been set up earlier.
3. On 17 May, a local police check post was attacked by insurgents. Reportedly a local policeman was injured.
4. On 20 May, a rocket struck a police check post in Zarat Tapa.
5. On Friday, 24 May, Dur Mohammad, an ALP commander in control of a check post in Afandi Tapa (Mamakhel village) was killed with his nephew and his bodyguard by the Taleban.
6. On Tuesday, 6 June, at 3 p.m., a group of Taleban fought against the ALP in Isakhel village of Chahrdara. The fight lasted for five hours and as a result, five ALP officers and their commander were killed.
7. According to local officials of Kunduz province, on 31 May the Taleban and foreign terrorists attacked the ALP checkpoint in Haji Aman village.
8. According to some informants, on 4 June at 11 p.m. in the area of the Mullah Kenja market, the Taleban attacked a local police checkpoint with heavy weapons. The fight lasted for one hour, and the Taleban were finally repelled by the ALP.
9. On 16 June at 11 a.m., the Taleban attacked and killed two local police officers while they were patrolling in Mamakhel area.
10. According to some residents, a clash occurred on Thursday, 4 July while one police officer was shopping and the Taleban suddenly attacked him. The clash lasted four hours, and resulted in twelve persons being injured.
11. According to some local residents, on 8 July, an ALP officer was killed in Nawabad area. The incident occurred while the Taleban ambushed a convoy of ALP and one of the officers was passing by on a motorcycle.
(5) Until 2010, Germans stationed in Kunduz were criticized for observing limited rules of direct engagement with the insurgents and thus having a poor impact on the security situation in the province. As a result, the US sent 1,400 soldiers to step up efforts and conduct aggressive campaigns of clearing insurgent strongholds, notably in Chahrdara. For a detailed account of the operations led by ISAF/ANSF in Chahrdara from 2009 to 2011, see “Reversing the Northeastern Insurgency”. Also read here).
(6) The most recent UNAMA report on civilian casualties states: “Between 1 January and 30 June 2013, UNAMA documented 14 civilian deaths and 23 injuries in 32 separate incidents attributed to Afghan Local Police (ALP), an increase of 61 percent compared to the same period in 2012. The majority of civilian casualties resulted from ALP members committing human rights violations against civilians, including murder, torture, rape, threats, intimidation, harassment, forced labour, extortion and illegal taxation” (page 7).
Also see “From Arbaki to Local Police”, AIHRC (Spring 2012): one of the major concerns of the AIHRC regarding the creation of the ALP is “the increase in violence and insecurity in communities”.
(7) Ethnic Arabs descended from eighth-century Arab armies of Syria who settled in Afghanistan when the Russian Empire absorbed the Bukharan Khanate central-Asian state in the 1870s (source: Thomas Barfield, “The Central Asian Arabs of Afghanistan: Pastoral Nomadism in Transition”, University of Texas Press, January 1982).
(8) The economic situation of the district in 2007 is described in detail in the District Development Plan developed by the DDA of Chahrdara, here:
“The district residents have very poor living standard and weak economic opportunity due to their limited access to basic infrastructure, social protection and healthcare services, low agricultural and livestock productions level and quality and lack of respect for human rights in the area.” An Afghan national staff member of the WFP recently reported that Chahrdara was “highly food-insecure”.
(9) Research conducted by the author from October to December 2012 in Kunduz provided the following list of district administration members according to ethnic group and political affiliation: District Governor (Pashtun, affiliated to HIG); Mayor (Tajik, affiliated to Jamiat); Chief of the NDS (Tajik, affiliated to Jamiat); Head of the Criminal Unit (Tajik, affiliated to Jamiat); Head of the Justice Department (Tajik, affiliated to Jamiat); Chief Judge (Pashtun, affiliated to Jamiat); Prosecutor (Uzbek, affiliated to Jamiat); Head of Education (Tajik, affiliated to Jamiat); Head of the Haj Department (Turkmen, affiliated to Jamiat); Head of the Clinic (Pashtun, affiliated to Jamiat); Head of Agriculture (Tajik, affiliated to Jamiat); Chief of Police (Pashtun, affiliation unknown).
(10) See again “Reversing the Northeastern Insurgency”: “Yet, insurgent suicide attacks on ANSF and government officials in Kunduz have continued. Four high profile attacks have already occurred since the conclusion of these operations. Suicide bombers killed the Chahrdara district chief on February 10th and the Kunduz police chief a month later.”
(11) A report from the Center for Civilians in Conflict released in 2013 confirms the trend in which the Taleban uses people’s houses to hide and fire on the ANSF.
(12) See again the AIHRC report on arbakis and local police: “Additionally, the ALP recruitment process leads to lack of their loyalty to the central government, because the process is influenced by local commanders and influential figures that are in key positions of power. Also in many areas, the ALP comprises arbakis who have been armed by the US Special Forces and then registered and licensed by the Afghan Government as ALP.”
The UNAMA mid-year report 2012 on civilians notes: “UNAMA documented another example in Chahrdara district of Kunduz province in August 2010, where 300 ‘ALP’ were unilaterally recruited by the Provincial Chief of Police.”
(13) A US Institute for Peace (USIP) report on the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) published in September 2011 says: “Without civilian jobs or adequate security, many reintegrees are admitted into the Afghan Local Police (ALP)”; A PRIO paper of 2011 confirms: “Although on paper APRP is a more comprehensive program than earlier efforts at reintegration in Afghanistan, in reality the incentives for reintegrees and their communities have largely been limited to enrolment in the Afghan Local Police, which might intensify local rivalries instead of bringing peace by maintaining armed groups in the country”.
(14) The UNAMA 2013 mid-year report on the protection of civilians in conflict reported cases in Kunduz of ALP members bailed out after being arrested or of un-investigated crimes committed by ALP against the population.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020