Afghanistan government support to private militias to combat Talibans threat may lead to a civil war

KABUL: Riding on horseback and motorbikes, commander Naeem’s fighters combed a fog-enveloped Taliban infiltration route in Afghanistan’s northern badlands, as the government expands anti-insurgent militias across a patchwork of fiefdoms. Desperate to muzzle the resurgent Taliban, the government is cultivating thousands of militias with chequered pasts as a short-term security fix to supplement ground troops suffering record casualties. But the rise of these groups, a throwback to the devastating civil war in the 1990s that set the stage for a Taliban takeover, risk aggravating factionalism and pushing Afghanistan deeper into what observers call a self-perpetuating conflict. A militia commander with a short, thickset frame who leads around 200 fighters in the volatile Pashtun Kot district in Faryab province bordering Turkmenistan, they are key for survival. In a scene that could have been lifted from history books, his horse-mounted warriors with back-slung guns and RPG warheads scoured a mountain pass near the village of Jamshedi for Taliban intruders blamed for a spate of fatal ambushes. “Without uprising forces,” said Naeem, who is strongly averse to the label militias because of their contentious history, “the Taliban will overrun the district within minutes, killing their way into villages.”