Local strongmen and irresponsible armed militias, and the Taliban pose an equal threat to Afghanistan’s stability and security. The local armed groups, most of which are affiliated with political figures, are a major headache for the public, as they are routinely involved in all kinds of illegal activities, from extortions to extrajudicial killings, torture, land grabs, etc. For years, they have made money through use of force and intimidation due to the weakness of the central government, and have a long history of human rights violations and disruption of public order. The Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) programs should have put an end to this unwanted phenomenon, but it did not happen due to some various reasons that merit no mention here. In recent weeks, the government has arrested a number of leaders of the irresponsible armed groups, which is a laudable step, but is not enough.
Although the detention of unruly strongmen by the government has long been and remains to be a public demand, it should not be a symbolic exercise. Relieving the masses of the evil of these groups is the responsibility of the government in which all administrations have failed so far. The results of recent arrests made by Afghan forces are not yet clear, and there are fears that they may be linked to election campaign trail as the presidential election is fast approaching, but hopefully, that is not the case.
To have a strong central government and peace in the country, local strongmen and militias must be weakened. The government has to aggressively proceed with the arrest of all strongmen, because not only it can liberate the local communities of their evil, but also eliminates a key agent forcing local people to join the Taliban. Besides the government, people also should not back illegal milita commanders for their ethnic affiliation. They serve no one’s interests but theirs. People should call for their trial instead of supporting them. The primary victims of the activities of these strongmen are people from their own ethnic groups; therefore, any public support for them means allowing them to continue committing atrocities against the people.
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