News Middle East

Tuesday 25 July 2017

I may return to Taliban -- Afghan defector

Ben Farmer in Kandahar

A senior Taliban commander who defected to the Afghan government during last year's offensive in Kandahar has said his decision was a mistake and warned that he was thinking about a return to the insurgency.

Maulavi Azizullah Agha said he had been deceived by offers of security, training and jobs for his men which had never materialised.

A fraction of the promised money has been handed over, leaving him penniless and receiving death threats from his former insurgent comrades.

The comments from one of the few significant commanders to join the government in the insurgency's southern stronghold represent a blow to the reintegration scheme to coax fighters from their armed struggle.

Azizullah Agha's defection with a Taliban shadow governor and 80 men was portrayed as a success for the scheme and he was paraded on Afghan television.

NATO believes most Taliban are fighting for money or because of local grievances. Offers of amnesty, aid for their villages, security and jobs is a cornerstone of plans to withdraw from Afghanistan.

However, Azizullah Agha (30) said broken promises by the Afghan government could force insurgents back into battle. "It was the worst mistake of my life to join the government and I might go back to the Taliban," he said.

He said he had been given about €137 to cover his costs in eight months and had spent all his savings.

"They promised me I would be secure, they would give jobs or training to my friends. None of these have been kept," he said.

Afghans have greeted the scheme with scepticism, recalling similar displays of loyalty from the Soviet-backed government -- often only for money -- in the 1980s and 1990s.

Irish Independent

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