Republicans fear US rivals could exploit ex-Afghan commandos

Published August 15, 2022
Evacuees from Afghanistan board a military aircraft during an evacuation from Kabul, in this photo taken on August 19, 2021 at undisclosed location. — Reuters
Evacuees from Afghanistan board a military aircraft during an evacuation from Kabul, in this photo taken on August 19, 2021 at undisclosed location. — Reuters

WASHINGTON: Former Afghan security personnel with sensitive knowledge of US operations left behind by the American evacuation operation are vulnerable to recruitment or coercion by Russia, China and Iran, Republican lawmakers said on Sunday, noting that President Joe Biden’s administration failed to prioritise evacuating them.

“This is especially true given reports that some former Afghan military personnel have fled to Iran,” minority Republicans of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee said in a report on the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

The Biden administration, the report said, failed to prioritise evacuating US-trained Afghan commandos and other elite units in the shambolic Aug 14-30, 2021, US troop pullout and evacuation operation at Kabul international airport.

Thirteen US soldiers died and hundreds of US citizens and tens of thousands of at-risk Afghans were left behind during the operation.

The administration calls the operation an “extraordinary success” that flew more than 124,000 Americans and Afghans to safety and wound up an “endless” war in which some 3,500 US and allied troops, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans died.

But hundreds of US-trained commandos and other former security personnel and their families remain in Afghanistan amid reports the Taliban have been killing and torturing former Afghan officials, allegations the militants deny.

Those former personnel “could be recruited or coerced into working for one of Americas adversaries that maintains a presence in Afghanistan, including Russia, China, or Iran,” the Republican report said.

It called that possibility a “major national security risk” because those Afghans “know the US military and intelligence community’s tactics, techniques, and procedures.” Some US officials and experts say Biden has sought to move on from Afghanistan without properly assessing the war’s lessons and without accountability for the chaotic evacuation.

The Republican report wedded new details of the extraction operation with congressional testimony and military and news reports to show how the administration overrode US commanders’ advice, failed to adequately plan and disregarded the Taliban’s violations of a 2020 pullout deal.

In another finding, it said the administration waited until hours before the Taliban seized Kabul to make key evacuation decisions. They included asking other countries to host transit centers for thousands of Afghan evacuees who worked for the US government during the 20-year American intervention and others at risk of Taliban retribution, said the report.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2022

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