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Russia is Reportedly Trying to Recruit Former Afghan Commandos to Fight in Ukraine

Afghan Army commandos attend their graduation ceremony after a 3 1/2 month training program, at the Commando Training Center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (Rahmat Gul/Associated Press)
Afghan Army commandos attend their graduation ceremony after a 3 1/2 month training program, at the Commando Training Center on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (Rahmat Gul/Associated Press)

The Russians may be reaching out to former Afghan commandos and offering to pay them to fight in Ukraine as the latest proxy force to enter the conflict, according to Foreign Policy columnist Lynne O’Donnell.

“Some former commandos report being contacted on WhatsApp and Signal with offers to join what some experts referred to as a Russian ‘foreign legion’ to fight in Ukraine,” wrote O’Donnell, who cited unnamed former Afghan military and security sources. “News of the recruitment efforts has caused alarm in Afghanistan’s former military and security circles, with members saying up to 10,000 former commandos could be amenable to the Russian government’s offers.”

O’Donnell then quoted another unnamed Afghan military source as saying: “They have no country, no jobs, no future. They have nothing to lose.’”

Many former Afghan commandos fled to Iran, Turkey, and elsewhere after the Taliban captured Kabul in August 2021 to avoid possible reprisals. Even though the Taliban nominally offered amnesty to former members of the Afghan National Defense Security Forces, evidence on social media indicates that 47 Afghan troops and police officers were killed or disappeared between Aug. 15 and Oct. 31, 2021, according to Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group that investigates reports of human rights abuses.

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