Kabul: The Second Peshawar for Selling Military Uniforms & Equipment
Abdul Rahman Rahmani
Selling military equipment in Kabul has become a cause for concern among both Afghans and their international partners. To maintain law and order, boost the morale of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), and strengthen the trust between ANSF and ordinary Afghans, the Kabul police must ban selling military goods in open markets.
Last month Uzbek’s protested the arrest of Nizamudding Qaisari, an Uzbek warlord and district police chief, by Afghan military forces in the Faryab province. Qaisari used his platform as police chief to threatened both civilian and military officials on several occasions. He was a close ally of Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum, “who has fallen out with the Afghan President,” and has chosen to live in exile in Turkey. Most Afghans welcomed the arrest of Qaisari. However, shortly after Qaisari’s arrest, a video circulated on social media criticizing Afghan Commandos for abusing and kicking Qaisari’s men. In this particular video at least one man was wearing a commando uniform, displaying a commando patch on his right arm.
As a direct result of this video, commandos are being criticized by the members of government opposition groups such as new Grand National Coalition that emerged last week in Kabul. These opposition groups believe the commandos violated both civil and military laws, claiming the commandos are guilty of various war crimes. However, top government officials, including General Bismillah Waziri, the commander of the commandos, denied involvement in the incident in Faryab. The only logical answer is that this propaganda video was created to slander the legitimacy of the Afghan Commandos and Afghan government. The question remains, where did that man obtain his uniform and commando patch? Additionally, while a singular incident, how does a video like this affect the valued opinion of the populace regarding Afghan commandos. And lastly, what should be done to regain the trust between Afghans and the ANSF? If a picture speaks one-thousand words and perception is reality, those who oppose the legitimacy of the Afghan government can easily attack the legitimacy of the ANSF by adopting their uniforms for acts of violence, with increased effectiveness if these acts are captured on social media.
In May of 2018, at least ten Daesh militants wearing U.S. military uniforms attacked the Interior Ministry in Kabul. These attackers, who had counterfeit United States Army identification cards, were heavily armed with rifles, bombs, grenades and utilized armored vehicles. A key finding in the investigation following the attack is where the militants purchased these uniforms.
Researchers have criticized Pakistani black markets for years regarding the practice of selling military goods. For example, this report confirms that, “U.S. combat boots, eye protection, uniforms, knives, torches, tools, socks, beds and even night vision goggles are sold in Chaman and Peshawar,” in Pakistan. However, Kabul has become the second Peshawar for militants because they can openly purchase “uniforms, boots, badges, insignia, and other military and police items,” on the black market. There are at least four black markets in Kabul - Kohna Foroshi in the East, Pul-e-Khishti in the city’s Center, Kota-e-Sangi in the West and Bush Bazaar, which was named after former U.S. President George W. Bush. In these black markets you can find an enormous variety of military gear and equipment, to include U.S. and Afghani uniforms. If you build trust with shopkeepers, you may even purchase original pistols, AK-47s, and M4 rifles. General Waziri openly stated in the mentioned video that the “commandos’ patch and uniform can be found throughout the country.
After 9/11, and the overthrow of the Taliban regime, if Afghan can trust just one thing in their country, it is that their security forces are their last hope against insurgents and violent extremists who are constantly murdering their fellow Afghans. As a symbol of this trust, Afghans gifted roses to their security forces on many occasions including during a peaceful protest held by Hazaras in Kabul two years ago. To boost morale, people have also held many gatherings in support of military operations conducted by ANSF. At the same time, in this same city, military equipment is sold openly in many markets. This greatly demoralizes Afghan security forces because this equipment is being used by various militant groups who are killing innocents. The situation in Afghanistan is different than other countries that sell military goods in open markets or online stores. Education is diminished within the country, and some schools are still being burned in certain areas by the Taliban and other terrorist groups. More than 20 terrorist organizations are operating in the country, and more than 50 Afghans are killed by these insurgents on a daily basis. Afghan military forces are fighting against an imposed war. Selling military goods in such a country does not only eradicate and weaken law and order but also greatly contribute to militant operations throughout the country. It diminishes trust between ANSF and ordinary Afghans and weakens ANSF morale. To maintain law and order, improve the morale of ANSF, and strengthen the trust between ANSF and ordinary Afghans the Kabul police must ban the selling of military goods in open markets. The unifying cloth of the Afghan National Security forces is not just a uniform, it is a symbol of hope in a region that deserves to be protected, and we must protect that symbol of hope from slander by those who wish to delegitimize both the Afghan government and Afghan military.