Anti-Taliban Militia (Afghanistan)

Country: Afghanistan
Details of Formation: The government requested the formation of militias and Arif Noorzai, an Afghan politician from Helmand, helped to set them up part of them in summer 2009. It was formed by in the run up to the presidential elections on 20 August 2009. Norzai's programme of 12,500 militiamen in 22 provinces subsequently expanded with US aid from late 2009 on to fight insurgents. US support is estimated at $1.3 billion.
Details of Termination: --
Purpose: The PGM was intended to protect villages against Taliban insurgents by the US and Afghan government. Because of a shortage of regular state soldiers, it was also supposed to facilitate the self-defence of villagers against the Taliban and provide incentives for locals to take up arms independently.
Organisation: The group was linked to the Interior Ministry and the Afghan government rather than the US, although the latter also played a significant role and the PGM received financial assistance from the US. Afghan politician Arif Noorzai was significantly involved in the formation of many of the groups. According to news sources, they worked with Nato and regular Afghan forces. There were concerns about the groups getting out of government control due to their strength and relative independence (e.g. also due to income from drug trade and corruption) and the groups’ independent emergence.
Weapons and Training: Because the militia already existed and had weapons before it became pro-government, the group was not armed by the US. There are, however, reports that the group received weapons from the Afghan government. There were plans to train the fighters, but it is said that they often got little or no training.
Size: When the group became pro-government in 2009, the initial size of the militia was estimated at 12,500 members in 22 provinces. In the province of Helmand there were 800 members in 2011, with 30 groups consisting of as many as 50 fighters.
Reason for Membership: There may have been financial incentives to join the group based on reports of its involvement in patronage, corruption, plundering, and drug trade. Protecting one’s own community is another possible reason for joining the PGM.
Treatment of Civilians: There are reports of murder, rape (also of children), torture, beating, extortion (e.g. the collection of informal taxes) and plundering having been perpetrated by the PGM, which was not held accountable for these actions. In general, it is said to have contributed to an environment of instability and insecurity.
Other Information: The militia is also known as the Community Defense Initiative, Local Defense Initiative, Afghan Local Police or Arbakai. The plan to deploy them was promoted by the US forces in Afghanistan and built in order to replicate the “Sunni Awakening” movement in Iraq. The PGM consists of many regional militias, which fall under one common government/US-program. Some militia groups were formed independently and were then included in the program. Others were created by the government or the US forces. The regional militias vary in the degree of their government support and the range of their actions. Members were meant to be selected by local councils. When the plans to form this militia emerged, experts warned about a potential long-term destabilising impact on the situation in the country. It is also reported that this militia was involved in corruption and profited from drug trade.
References: Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD.