U.S. Worries Afghan Forces Will Divide Along Ethnic Lines

The American combat mission in Afghanistan will end in 2014. One concern for U.S. officials is the possibility that Afghan security forces will splinter along ethnic lines. The worry then is that those troops will start taking orders from warlords.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

When the American combat mission in Afghanistan ends next year, one concern for U.S. officials is the possibility that the Afghan security forces will then splinter along ethnic lines, and the warlords of the past will reemerge.

From Kandahar, here's NPR's Tom Bowman.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Senior Afghan officials are increasingly stockpiling weapons and putting their ethnic brethren in key positions. One possibility? Because if the Afghan forces can't hold against the Taliban when the Americans leave, they'll step in with their fighters.

American intelligence reports say those stockpiling weapons include Ismail Khan, a onetime warlord and current minister of energy and water, and Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, the defense minister. Both men are ethnic Tajiks who fought with the Northern Alliance in 2001 against the Taliban, largely ethnic Pashtun.

Major General Ahmed Rauoffi, a former Kandahar governor, says the weapons stockpiling goes beyond concerns about the Taliban's strength. There's also a political element.

MAJOR GENERAL AHMED RAUOFFI: The Pashtuns don't trust the Tajiks, Tajiks don't trust the Pashtuns and there's deep mistrust in our security and institutions.

BOWMAN: Last fall, Ismail Khan gathered thousands of his fighters and told them to get ready to defend the country. President Hamid Karzai's spokesman called it an illegal challenge to the government.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi denied, through a spokesman, that he was either stockpiling arms or putting loyalists in key positions. Still, one senior U.S. official tells NPR, we're watching this all very closely.

Tom Bowman, NPR News, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: