|History and Biodata
Who are the CIA-backed Afghan strike force units?
There are five militias that, says Human Rights Watch, come under only the nominal control of the Afghan intelligence agency, the NDS and do not “fall under the ordinary chain of command within the NDS, nor under normal Afghan or US military chains of command.” Rather, they are “recruited, trained, equipped, and overseen by the CIA.” Human Rights Watch also quotes UNAMA as to the “lack of transparency for command, control, rules of engagement, and policy framework” guiding these five ‘strike forces’. They are:
Operates in Afghanistan’s central region, in Kabul, Parwan, Wardak, Logar, and possibly other bordering provinces. A detail given by eye-witnesses is that they recognised different local dialects among the Afghan members of the commando unit, Urguni (from neighbouring Paktika), Dzadran and Tani (from Khost). Local dialects are very strong and distinctive.
Operates in Afghanistan’s eastern region, in Nangarhar and Kunar, possibly other bordering provinces.
NDS 03 (Kandahar Strike Force or KSF)
Operates in Afghanistan’s southern region, in Kandahar, Helmand, and Uruzgan out of the former compound of the late Taleban leader Mullah Omar, commonly referred to as ‘Mullah Omar’s house’ and by US forces as ‘Camp Gecko’. The late brother of former president Hamed Karzai Ahmad Wali Karzai reportedly oversaw KSF operations until his assassination in 2011. NDS officials have said that these units come under effective CIA command and they have no authority over them.
Operates in Nuristan, Kunar, and other bordering northeastern provinces.
Khost Protection Force (KPF)
The oldest of the militias, the KPF developed out of a Khost-based militia made up largely of former PDPA officers, recognised as the 25th Division by the Ministry of Defence as part of the (pre-ANA) Afghan Military Forces. The 25thDivision escaped demobilisation because of its close contacts with US forces, and morphed into the KPF. It operates out of the CIA base, Camp Chapman in Khost, where, quoting UNAMA, Human Rights Watch says a KPF commander “participates in the weekly security meetings in Khost province, chaired by the provincial governor, alongside Afghan national security forces, which suggests some degree of information-sharing and tacit consent by the [Afghan] government of its operations.” KPF, says Human Rights Watch, reportedly has battalions in Sharana in Paktika province and Gardez in Paktia province, and is the largest of the paramilitary strike forces, with between 3,000 and 10,000 men and a network of informants.
The Khost Protection Force, reportedly still active and still under CIA control, emerged out of a militia which was notionally the 25th Division in the Afghan Military Forces – the latter term was used to describe the various militia and factional forces from the Northern Alliance and those loyal to pro-US Pashtun commanders which came under Ministry of Defence control in 2001/02 and were funded by the US before the creation of the Afghan National Army (ANA). The 25th Division had a high proportion of former members of the PDPA army. It was spared Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) because of its good links to the US military.(20171026)
The future of the Khost Protection Force (KPF), and others like it in various Afghan provinces, has been unclear as the C.I.A. withdraws from remote Afghan bases in concert with the broader drawdown of American combat troops from Afghanistan. Some of the units were earmarked to be handed over to the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, after this year (2014). The Khost Protection Force, which generally maintains a low profile, has until recently been one of the largest of several C.I.A.-sponsored paramilitary forces along the border. During the Obama administration’s troop surge in 2010 and 2011, some American news reports said it had carried out illegal cross-border raids, with support from armed American drones, to attack Qaeda and Taliban fighters in North Waziristan. (20141016)
It was revealed that although there is coordination with the security directorate — the NDS — the CIA is still directing the KPF’s operations, paying fighters’ salaries, and training and equipping them. American personnel were gathering biometric data of alleged suspects, according to witnesses, former KPF commanders and local officials who regularly meet with the force and their American overseers.(20151203)
May 20, 2017 a very strong explosive device hit a onvoy of the Khost Protection Force (KPF) – a local US-run private militia that is not part of the regular government forces – that had stopped in Khost city for shopping. The attack killed 18 people and was claimed by the Taleban. After the withdrawal of most US forces from the region and the closure of a number of their forward bases, the 4-6,000 strong KPF is the Taleban’s main local adversary. They have been effective in pushing back the Haqqani network’s influence in the three Zadran districts of Paktia (Waza Zadran, Shwak and Gerda Tserai).
KPF is controlled by CIA and NDS operatives from former forward operating base Chapman. It is located two miles southeast of the city of Khost.
Disbanding of CIA frontline Afghan counterterrorist forces in south and east Afghanistan:
750 members of the Counterterrorist Pursuit Teams in the Kunar region—home to the elusive Afghan al Qaeda leader Farouq al-Qahtani al-Qatari—and the 3,500-strong Khost Protection Force. The Khost fighters have helped patrol the insurgent-heavy region along the border with Pakistan’s infamous Waziristan province, an area so heavily populated by Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda and other militant networks that it’s frequently targeted by CIA drone strikes.
One of the first major CIA-trained units to be disbanded was the 900-man Counterterrorist Pursuit Team in the town of Shkin, in Paktika province next to Khost. A former senior Afghan intelligence official said the men were fired with no notice, given a severance payment, two rifles and told to leave. The soon-vacated site was then overrun by Taliban forces, who had to be driven out roughly a month later by the Afghan army. Karzai’s spokesman Faizi said the Afghan government had no advance notice of the firings, but later tried to recruit the Shkin forces into the ranks of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, in hopes of keeping them from selling their skills to the Taliban or someone else. “We tried to hire those militia for the same pay as the CIA,” he said. “But only a 100 or so said yes.”
In Kunar province, the Afghan army commander there is trying to keep history from repeating itself, by moving his troops to fill the key U.S. outpost and its nearby CIA base, before the Americans depart.
“I need to take that position, but I need more troops,” said Maj. Gen. Mohammad Zaman Waziri (Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps in eastern Afghanistan). Two U.S. officials said the CIA-trained paramilitaries at the Kunar base have been told of their imminent firing, and some have already reached out to the Taliban, possibly to reach a peace deal for when they no longer have Americans to pay or protect them.(20140505)
Kandahar Strike Force (KSF)
The KSF operated out of the old house in Kandahar of former Taleban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, re-named Camp Gecko. Its chain of command appeared to be an informal arrangement, by-passing the ministries of interior and defence, and answering to the US SOF and/or CIA, as well as to Ahmad Wali Karzai, the late brother of former president Karzai. KSF recruits were cherry-picked from regular Afghan army units and trained by US SOF at Camp Gecko.
CTPT. A Counter-terrorism Pursuit Team is tasked with dealing with high threat covert ops. Possible examples of CTPTs currently operating: Afghan NDS 0-4, now consisting of 250 men trained by US Special Forces appears still to be active, and working with (for?) the CIA still, with a zone of responsibility extending into southern Nuristan. Afghan NDS’s 0-2 brigade in Nangahar would be another possible unit worth looking into.
Finally, it seems possible that some of Kandahar Provincial Police Chief Abdul Razeq’s forces in Kandahar are formally designated as CTPTs to allow for operations on the other side of the border. Razeq has been reported to run limited campaigns into Pakistan – mostly for assassinations.(20171026)
The CIA started recruiting and training these Afghan paramilitary groups only months after the intelligence agency first entered the country in 2001 ahead of invading U.S. troops, according to current and former U.S. and Afghan officials. They described the top-secret force in detail on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.