Despite reports that American troops may soon be leaving the country following a deal with the Taliban, the United States Central Intelligence Agency plans to retain a strong presence on the ground in Afghanistan.
Reports indicate that Washington has resolved its differences with the Taliban about withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan as the Doha talks are underway.
But in an article for Foreign Policy, Stefanie Glinski points out that the CIA is not planning to leave the Central Asian country any time soon.
The American intelligence agency is known to support, arm and train several proxy forces throughout Afghanistan.
Langley plans to keep those proxy forces operating in the country for the foreseeable future, regardless of whether US troops pull out, says Glinski.
She gives the example of the Khost Protection Force (KPF), a 6,500-strong unit of Afghan soldiers who are “trained, equipped and funded by the CIA”.
The KPF is the most active and visible of an extensive network of CIA-sponsored paramilitary groups in Afghanistan.
According to the report, the KPF operates almost exclusively along the Afghan-Pakistani border and has a strong presence in Taliban strongholds like Ghazni, Paktia, and Khost.
The roots of the KPF go back to the days immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, which prompted the US military invasion of Afghanistan. It, therefore, precedes the Afghan National Army, Afghanistan’s state-run military apparatus, and does not operate under its command. Instead, it is solely directed by the CIA, which uses it to secure the Afghan-Pakistani border and disrupt the activities of Taliban, al-Qaeda and Islamic State fighters in the Afghan borderlands.
Members of the KPF claim that they are “better trained than the Afghan National Army”.
They are also paid much better, over $1000.00 per month, which is an enormous sum for Afghanistan.
Glinski reports that most KPF fighters joined the group for the money and the ability to eventually seek permanent resettlement in the United States.
But alongside the group’s elite image, KPF members have acquired notoriety and are often seen as trigger-happy and unaccountable.
Several reports in Western media have said that the KPF’s tactical accomplishments have come at a high price, with countless reports of civilian deaths and, some claim, even war crimes.
These risk “alienating the Afghan population”, said a New York Times report last year.
Glinski says it is possible the KPF’s aggressive tactics may be “radicalizing portions of the very population it intends to pacify or frighten into submission”.
In April of this year, a United Nations report alleged that more Afghan civilians died as a result of attacks by the Afghan government and American military attacks than at the hands of the Taliban and other guerilla groups.
The CIA did not respond to several requests for comment from Foreign Policy, says Glinski.