U.S.-Backed Kandahar Police Chief Suspected of Mass Murder

Matthieu Aikins in The Atlantic examines the tactics of a former drug-running warlord

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The U.S. employs a former drug-running warlord who uses torture and intimidation as regular city policing tactics as the acting police chief of Kandahar, according to an in-depth profile by Matthieu Aikins in the November issue of The Atlantic that went online on Monday. He's also thought to be responsible for mass murder. Abdul Raziq, now a brigadier general on a direct order from President Hamid Karzai, leads a militia that works with and gets advice from U.S. special forces. But Aikins notes that, "as a 2006 State Department report shows, U.S. officials have for years been aware of credible allegations that Raziq and his men participated in a cold-blooded massacre of civilians, the details of which have, until now, been successfully buried." That would violate a 1997 ban on military cooperation with known human rights abusers. But as a U.S.-allied operative, even his known policing tactics fall well outside the guidelines of appropriate behavior, and allied forces are at something of a loss on how to handle him, Aikins learned.

While beatings in police custody have been common in Kandahar for as long as there have been police, a number of Afghan and international officials familiar with the situation there told me that Raziq has brought with him a new level of brutality. Since his arrival, Raziq has launched a wave of arrests across the city in coordination with the government intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security. One human-rights official who has conducted prison visits in Kandahar told me that the number of prisoners is up more than 50 percent since Raziq’s arrival. In July, even the U.S. military seemed to have realized that the situation was out of hand, when American and NATO forces quietly halted the transfer of detainees to Afghan authorities in southern Afghanistan, because of credible allegations that prisoners had been severely abused while in police and NDS custody.

Lately, a few newly infamous names have become known outside the Afghanistan security community. Raziq is one, and a New York Times feature from Sunday posited that Jalaluddin Haqqani was another, leading a brutal criminal clan in attacks against the U.S.-backed Afghan government. Raziq, it seems, is another such strongman, but as Aikins learned, he's the U.S.'s strongman, and now the U.S.'s problem. The rest of Aikins story can be read here.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.