Afghan special forces soldiers who fought alongside US troops but fled to Iran after the US withdrawal last year are now being recruited by the Russian military to fight in Ukraine, three former generals told The Afghan Associated Press.
They said Russia wants to recruit thousands of former elite Afghan commandos “into the foreign legion,” offering them monthly stipends of $1,500, housing for them and their families, and guarantees that they will not be deported to Afghanistan, where many believe they would face death at the hands of the Taliban.
“They don’t want to go to war, but they have no other choice,” said one of the generals, Abdul Raof Arghandiwal, adding that dozens of commandos in Iran, with whom he has communicated via text messages, fear they will be deported to Afghanistan. “Give me a solution? What should we do? If we go back to Afghanistan, the Taliban will kill us.”
Arghandiwal said the recruitment of commandos is being led by mercenary group Wagner. Another general, Hibatullah Alizai, who was Afghanistan’s army chief before the Taliban took power, said recruitment efforts are also being helped by former Afghan special forces commanders who live in Russia and speak Russian.
The recruitment reports come after warnings from US soldiers who have fought with Afghan special forces that the Taliban will kill these soldiers if they join US enemies just to save themselves.
A report by the Republican Party in the US, published in August, specifically warned of the danger that Afghan commandos – trained by US forces – could provide information to the militant group, Islamic State, Iran or Russia about the tactics of the US military. The report also stated that there is a risk that these soldiers will join the war with these countries and groups.
Also, reports of the Afghan recruitment come as Russian forces are grappling with Ukraine’s military advances, prompting Russian President Vladimir Putin — who ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 — to declare a military mobilization, forcing almost 200,000 Russians to flee the country in order to avoid mobilization.
Russia’s Defense Ministry has not responded for comment on the matter. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has recently admitted that he is the founder of the Wagner group, has rejected claims that this group is recruiting former Afghan soldiers, calling this idea “crazy”.