Mohammad Habibzada - VOA News
WASHINGTON - Retired Afghan national security forces, both from the national army and from the national police, would be recruited as part of a new Afghan regional force to provide security for areas retaken from Islamic State militants and Taliban insurgents, an Afghan official told VOA.
General Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, told VOA the Afghan regional force would be well-equipped and provided with air support when needed.
“These forces will be stationed in areas that are important to the Afghan government from a strategic point of view and areas that are already cleared of militants and needs to be protected,” Radmanish said.
The force would be administered by the Afghan Ministry of Defense, and the recruitment process has already begun in eastern Laghman, northeastern Kapisa, southern Kandahar and western Herat provinces. The plan is to expand to other provinces in the future as well.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered the creation of the new force earlier this year and the eventual goal is to establish a force of 36,000 personnel, according to Afghan officials.
Not a Militia
The Afghan government has relied on militias in the past in an effort to fill the security gap in parts of the country. The militias have been accused of widespread abuse in rural areas. The creation of the new force has some concerned in Afghanistan that they might also resort to abuse of power in areas under their control.
But government officials say the new regional force is not going to serve as a militia. Rather, all those recruited under the new initiative will be subject to the same recruitment and training process as other Afghan national security forces.
“Afghan Army Regional Force will strictly follow and obey military rules, and no indiscipline in its ranks will be tolerated,” Radmanish said.
The new force also would be deployed to eastern Nangarhar province , the traditional stronghold of the Islamic State terror group in Afghanistan.
The local branch of Islamic State in Afghanistan, known as IS-Khorasan, first emerged in parts of Nangarhar province in 2015.
The group has since made inroads to other neighboring provinces and several provinces in the north of the country as well.
Attaullah Khogyani, Nangarhar provincial governor's spokesperson, told VOA that the new force will provide security, and prevent IS and Taliban militants from re-emerging in areas already cleared by Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces.
“Afghan regional forces will be stationed in Khogyani, Pachir Wa Agam and Deh Bala districts of eastern Nangarhar province,” Khogyani added.
He added that local people have welcomed the creation of the regional force to provide security for the region and pledged to support them.
U.S. and Afghan forces have carried out several military operations against IS in eastern Afghanistan. More than 150 IS militants have been killed over the past two months during joint U.S.-Afghan operations, according to the U.S. military.
Military operations against the terror group continue in the area. Earlier this month, the Deh Bala district, an IS stronghold in Nangarhar province, was captured by U.S. and Afghan special forces.
VOA's Zia Urahman Hasrat contributed to this report from Nangarhar, Afghanistan.