KABUL/GHAZNI: Amid revived bids for peace talks between the Afghan negotiating sides, a militia commander accused of having allied with the Taliban recently is waging an open and unfettered war against President Ashraf Ghani-led administration.
Nine security personnel, including four well-trained pilots, were killed when a military chopper was downed in Behsud district of central Maidan Wardak province by local Shia militia leader Abdul Ghani Alipoor – a driver-cum-militia commander with 400-men strong force.
The Ministry of Defense has confirmed the deaths and stated it would avenge the incident following investigations. The rare attack using a laser-guided anti-aircraft rocket targeted the Afghan Air Force special wing’s helicopter en route to deliver food supplies to police late on Wednesday.
The elite 777-Special Mission Wing supports Afghan Special Security Forces with night-time raids, casualty evacuations, and reconnaissance operations.
As per Afghan government officials, Alipoor is closely tied with the Iranian intelligence and Fatemiyoun, an Iran-backed Afghan Shi’a militia group. Meanwhile, credible security sources, who spoke to OrbandNews on the condition of anonymity, also confirmed it was Misagh, an Iranian man-portable guided missile, that shot down hit the copter.
Other sophisticated arms are also said to have been supplied by the Iranian government to the militia group, something that has a precedent in the Middle East dynamics as non-state actors are known to have used the missile in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
On Saturday, National Security Advisor HamdullahMohib said illegal armed commander Alipoor had failed to fulfill his commitments with the government and prevented the government’s writ from prevailing in areas under his control.
He said Alipour was an example of illegal armed groups as he extorted people in areas under his control and did not allow the government to function, Mohib said of Alipoor. Mohib likened him to the Taliban, saying, “People who take arms and fight the system are no different from the Taliban,” a highly likely accusation given the recent shifts in the peace spectrum, with the scale tipping in the Taliban’s favor.
In 2018, Alipur, a local warlord and a self-proclaimed armed leader of the local Shia–Hazara group, was set free through the Second Vice-President of Afghanistan Sarwar Danish’s assurances on the condition that he wouldn’t cause unrest in any province again.
This recent act of his has led to mixed reactions within Afghans. The majority of Afghans have started seriously criticizing Ashraf Ghani’s government because of its inability to arrest local warlords and implement the rule of law. People blamed VP Sarwar Danish for supporting Alipoor because of his ethnic-nationalistic interests.
Meanwhile, the issue has raised some ethnic tensions as his supporters are getting into harsh verbal clashes with other averse ethnic groups on social media platforms.
Alipoor has a criminal record and violent reputation. He is accused of human rights abuses, extortion, kidnapping, and assassination. Alipoor has in the recent past attacked police posts multiple times, torching their stations and taking away their ammunition and weapons, as well as inflicting heavy casualties on security personnel.
On the other hand, most Hazaras expressed support for Alipoor and blamed Ghani’s government for discriminating against the Hazara minority, killing their people, and creating propaganda against their political figures and local armed leaders who protected them from the Taliban, something used to justify Alipoor’s this recent act of war against the government.
The government’s policy of not taking serious actions against the warlords has led to deteriorating security situations in the country and has tremendously decreased people’s trust in the government.
Talking to the relative of the slain soldiers, President Ashraf Ghani vowed to avenge the death of the soldiers by the militia commander and said, “I am assuring you that the perpetrators will be severely punished. Afghan security forces’ blood will never be wasted.” Ghani reiterated the statement while extending sympathies through telephonic conversations with the bereaved families, who expressed pride in their sons losing lives while defending the Afghan soil.
According to MoD, an operation has already been launched against Alipoor’s group. At least 12 irresponsible armed men of his are confirmed killed, including his commander by the name of Jumma.
Critics say if Ghani’s government wouldn’t arrest Alipoor and serve justice, his government will be labeled as weak and incapable of leading Afghanistan during such a complex and challenging inflection point, considering the recent momentum in the Afghan peace process.
On the other hand, there has been a recent hashtag drive on Twitter, lending credence to Alipoor’s atrocities and opposing operations against him. The hashtag contributors are mostly Iranians, which brings under question his links to the country.
Sources told OrbandNews that after the downing of the Taliban, he’d taken shelter in Nawar district in Ghazni province. According to the sources, public representatives in Wolesi Jirga Akbar Qasimi and Arif Rahamani’s irresponsible armed men are said to be giving him refuge.
Both public representatives maintain armed men in the district, with strong relations to Alipoor and Fatemiyoun.
The Fatemiyoun Division, also known as the Fatemiyoun Brigade, or Liwa-e-Fatemiyoun, is an Iran-backed Afghan shi’a militia group that has been active in Syria since 2013/14. The Fatemiyoun Division is primarily composed of second-generation Afghan refugees living in Iran.
Asked about the recent incident, Wardak Deputy Governor Mohammad Jawad Moradi said it came under the jurisdiction of the MoD, refraining from remarking in this regard.
Shaali Sharifullah Hotak, a member of the Maidan Wardak provincial council, said of Alipoor’s militia that the group had been established and armed against Kochis (nomads) in the Behsud district in 2007, around time when he used to be a van driver.
“After suppressing the nomads, the group also began prosecuting the Hazaras, driving apart the Hazara community from its ranks.”
Currently, the group had 400 armed men with advanced weapons, while their relations with the Taliban had improved in the past one month or so.
Hotak said some while back, Alipoor’s fighters and the Taliban came together in the Sarchashma area of Wardak’s Jalrez district, whereby they agreed to fight only against the government.