воскресенье, 9 ноября 2014 г.

Powerful Afghan Police Chief Puts Fear in Taliban and Their Enemies

By Declan Walsh


With his boyish looks and hesitant smile, Lt. Gen. Abdul Raziq cuts a modest figure that belies his reputation as a man of both courage and cruelty: the tough-guy sheriff who kept the Taliban out of Kandahar.

“I don’t think people fear me,” said the 37-year-old police chief of Kandahar Province, speaking in the garden of his tightly guarded home as three giggling children swarmed him. “At least I don’t want them to fear me.”

Yet “fear” is a word frequently associated with General Raziq, a favorite of American officials who has, by most reckonings, become the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan and one of the richest.

Since taking control of security in Kandahar three years ago, he has imposed an uneasy peace on this onetime Taliban citadel — insurgent attacks in the city have fallen by two-thirds, according to Western estimates. His name prompts dread among the Taliban, experts say.
But those gains have been sullied by accounts of widespread human rights abuses by the security forces that have caused his erstwhile American champions to publicly distance themselves from the hard-charging police chief.

Now, as American combat troops depart Kandahar, the dilemma of how to handle General Raziq has been inherited by Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani. Mr. Ghani has vowed to dismantle the fiefs of regional strongmen. But as violence grows in neighboring provinces, he has to decide whether replacing General Raziq is advisable — or even possible.

“The president’s advisers have told him that it’s time to rein in Raziq,” said Graeme Smith, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization. “But that could be difficult, practically speaking, because the president also needs Raziq to keep the peace.”

General Raziq is, in several respects, a telling product of the American intervention in Afghanistan. He rose to prominence after 2001 as the police chief of Spinbaldak, a dusty border town 60 miles south of Kandahar, and quickly built a reputation as a ruthless anti-Taliban operator.

He also exerted a tight grip on the lucrative cross-border trade in an area rife with drug smuggling, Afghan elders and Western officials say, giving him personal wealth of at least tens of millions of dollars, by several estimates.

And he used his newfound powers to violently pursue old vendettas against tribal rivals — most notoriously in March 2006, when 16 people were killed near Spinbaldak and their bodies dumped in the nearby desert.

But powerful allies sheltered him from scrutiny. In 2007, President Hamid Karzai blocked Western efforts to have General Raziq fired over human rights concerns, said a United Nations official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. In September, during his last days in power, Mr. Karzai promoted General Raziq to his three-star rank.

American military leaders, impressed by his anti-Taliban fervor, offered funding and moral support.
“Ah, yes, General David,” General Raziq said, smiling as he recalled how Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former commander of American forces in the country, visited him at least five times in Spinbaldak. “A good man.”

When the border police chief led his fighters into Kandahar to help stave off Taliban attacks in 2010, some American commanders hailed him as a hero.

But it was after the 2011 death of Ahmed Wali Karzai, a half brother of President Karzai who was said to have grown rich from drug smuggling and C.I.A. funding, that General Raziq rose to undisputed dominance.

“Raziq is the god, the prophet, the governor and the president here in Kandahar,” said Gul Agha Shirzai, a former governor and onetime Raziq ally, at his mansion in the city. “He’s the king.”

These days, Kandahar has a secure if jittery air, with the police manning a network of 260 check posts across the city. Some are from the border police — rough-hewed men in bandannas and sunglasses, mostly drawn from General Raziq’s tribe, who lounge outside Humvee trucks near the governor’s palace, with photos of the general attached to their uniforms.

To the Taliban, General Raziq is a prized target. A scarlet rash on his right hand is the mark of a Taliban suicide attack that nearly killed him two years ago. And in July, during the Islamic festival Eid al-Fitr, a fresh wave of bombers struck at his family home in Spinbaldak, killing two people. “I don’t care how many times they try to kill me,” he said. “I will never compromise.”

But he also faces accusations that his harsh tactics are helping to stoke the insurgency.

A United Nations human rights report published last year stated that 81 people had disappeared in the custody of the Kandahar police in a year. Rights groups have collected evidence of secret prisons where detainees have been electrocuted, beaten with cables or subjected to summary execution. Health workers at the main Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar have reported receiving the bodies of former police detainees with smashed faces and drill marks in their skulls.

An operation in Zhare District, west of Kandahar, in August exemplified the tension between security and human rights. Leading from the front, General Raziq repelled a major Taliban assault. But during the fighting, the Afghan Local Police, a paramilitary force he commands, captured and executed six Kuchi nomads whom it accused of helping the insurgents.

“They took them to the Sangesar canal after dark. Then the firing started,” said a tribal elder, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals.

The following day, he said, the villagers pulled six bodies from the water and sent them to the Red Cross in Kandahar.

Michael Semple, an expert on Afghanistan at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland who has interviewed Taliban fighters, said that such abuses inflame the insurgency.

“Any good that Abdul Raziq does in projecting security is undone if he fans the Taliban’s sense of injustice,” he said.
Some civilians also feel aggrieved.

Earlier this year, Ikhlass Muhammad, 13, was abducted by a police commander and kept at a station in Pashmul for use as a sex slave, said his father, Khan Muhammad, an agricultural laborer.

After Mr. Muhammad demanded his son’s release, the police dumped the boy’s bloodied body outside his front door, claiming he had been killed in crossfire during a fight with the Taliban. Mr. Muhammad took the case to court, but a judge privately advised him to give up because the police were involved.

“What sort of justice is this?” Mr. Muhammad said angrily, holding out a photo of his son.

In an interview, General Raziq said his investigators had dismissed Mr. Muhammad’s claims for lack of evidence, but conceded that his men had been guilty of some abuses. “The police are human,” he said. “They also make mistakes.”

Still, the accusations have worried American officials, and could prompt financial sanctions against General Raziq’s police force.

Last month, the American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F. Campbell, personally warned him not to cross any “red lines,” said a senior Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“The international community is watching this,” the official said.

To General Raziq, such accusations are an irksome diversion from his focus on Pakistan, an enemy he accuses of feeding the insurgency from bases across the border in Baluchistan Province.

The Taliban and some Pakistani officials blame General Raziq for a series of killings of pro-Taliban clerics in Baluchistan last year. They have produced no hard evidence to back their claims, although a surge in reprisal attacks in recent months has targeted members of General Raziq’s Adozai tribe.

In the latest violence, gunmen shot dead Malik Baraat Khan and his 12-year old son in the Pakistani border town of Chaman last weekend, officials said.

General Raziq’s tainted success presents a complex choice to President Ghani, who must balance his stated aim to sweep out the Karzai-era strongmen while maintaining security in the face of a sustained Taliban assault.

The potency of the insurgent threat became evident during Mr. Ghani’s first month in power, when militants carried out 10 attacks in Kabul that killed 27 people. Sacking an enforcer like General Raziq, as brutal as he is, would carry considerable risk, said Mr. Semple, the analyst.

But, he added, stability in Afghanistan depends on the police learning how to enforce the law, and not break it.


“Ghani may conclude that he needs Raziq for a while,” Mr. Semple said. “But I don’t think he would consider him as part of the long-term solution.”

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