NATO-backed local police terrorising Afghans - report

Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:25pm GMT

KABUL (Reuters) - Armed groups supported by NATO and the Afghan government are terrorising and robbing the people they are supposed to protect, behaviour that is building support for insurgents, advocacy group Human Rights Watch said in a report on Monday.

Murder, torture, illegal taxes, theft and the gang rape of a teenage boy are among the abuses by government-backed militias, and the NATO-funded Afghan local police, documented in the 102-page report, "Just Don't Call It a Militia."

The groups were formed in response to Afghanistan's downward security spiral, aiming to capitalise on a basic instinct to protect local communities -- much like Iraq's Awakening Council that helped turn the tide of the Iraq war.

But a lack of training, vetting, oversight and accountability means armed groups are adding another worry to the lives of ordinary Afghans already struggling with a war that this year has claimed a record number of civilian lives.

"Kabul and Washington need to make a clean break from supporting abusive and destabilising militias to have any hope of a viable, long-term security strategy," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Poor governance, corruption, human rights abuses, and impunity for government-affiliated forces all are drivers of the insurgency."

Afghanistan's intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, had reactivated militia networks dating back to Afghanistan's bloody civil war, the report said, providing money and weapons that have been used with impunity.

Northern Kunduz province has seen a particularly rapid spread, and Human Rights Watch cites the case of four men killed by a militia in the course of a family dispute in 2009. No one involved had been arrested, because the commander had close ties to police and a local strongman, the report said.

Also problematic are the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a flagship project of General David Petraeus, who stepped down as commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan earlier this year.   Continued...

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