Ismail Khan said in early November it was time for the mujahedin to
rearm and succeed where foreign forces, which he described as "girls,"
had failed. He said the Herat militia, which he dubbed a "mujahedin
military wing," would help the Afghan government respond to likely
security concerns after 2014. "The foreigners sidelined those who had fought for ages," Ismail Khan
said during his speech in Herat in November. "They collected all our
weapons, our artillery and tanks, and put them on the rubbish heap.
Instead, they brought Dutch girls, French girls, they armed American
girls .... They thought by doing this they would bring security here, but
Ismail Khan added he had the full backing of Afghan President Hamid
Karzai. He said the Herat militia was just the start of a new
remobilization of former mujahedin. "I have spoken in detail with the
president, who is a former mujahedin member himself," he said. "We are
now working on registering names, an agenda, and a draft structure for a
nationwide mujahedin formation."
Wider, Ominous Trend
In the face of fierce opposition, Ismail Khan has since said he
regretted that his remarks were misinterpreted as suggesting that people
be armed and the mujahedin open another round of civil strife. He also said in a press conference in Kabul on November 11 that evidence
proving he was rearming the militia was false and fabricated. "If we
have distributed even a single weapon, we are ready to be judged by the
Afghan people and accept the most severe punishment," Ismail Khan said.
"The governance there [in Herat] is weak. We need a powerful governor to
Nevertheless, Ryan Evans, a research fellow at the Center for National
Policy, an independent think tank based in Washington, D.C., says Ismail
Khan's comments hint at a wider remobilization of former local and
regional militias. Evans says the international presence has kept a lid on ongoing tensions
between the country's long-warring factions, but he expects that to
change as Western soldiers get closer to their expected withdrawal date.
"The conflict in Afghanistan is an aggregation of small local and
regional conflicts. Counterinsurgency has not solved any of these
conflicts," Evans explains. "So, what we're seeing from Ismail Khan is a
very natural reaction to that. We're going to see more of it as we get
closer to 2014, and after 2014 as local communities begin to arm
Fears of Fragmentation
Ismail Khan's idea to rearm local militias is nothing new. In fact, the
United States has made it its policy in recent years to rearm many of
the same militias it disarmed and demobilized at the beginning of the
war. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, Washington has spent millions on a
Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program for former
mujahedin, members of Western-backed jihadist groups who fought the
Soviet Union and later the Taliban. Former mujahedin commanders like
Ismail Khan were given high-ranking positions within the government in a
nod to national unity.