Afghan General claims Russia’s Wagner Group recruiting his former troops for Ukraine war

About 15 former Afghan commandos have already joined the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organisation

Kabul: A shadowy private Russian mercenary force with close ties to the Kremlin is attempting to boost its ranks in Ukraine by recruiting US-trained Afghan commandos and other security forces, who fled to Iran following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, a former Afghan general said, according to a media report.

About 15 former Afghan commandos have already joined the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organisation, and thousands more could be recruited with the help of Iran to fight in Ukraine, according to General Abdul Raouf Arghandiwal, a former Afghan Defence Ministry official and commander of Afghanistan’s elite 207 Zafar Army Corps, RFE/RL reported.

“[Wagner’s] plan is to recruit 1,000 people in the first phase and 1,000 people in the second phase as a battalion, and to gradually continue this process,” Arghandiwal told RFE/RL.

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“There is no information about their fate,” Arghandiwal said of the commandos who have joined Wagner, and there has been no confirmation from Kyiv or elsewhere that Afghan soldiers have reached the battlefield in Ukraine.

Russia initially occupied wide swathes of Ukraine following its full-scale of invasion in February but has for months suffered significant troop and territorial losses due largely to a two-pronged Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The setbacks, which have left Russia trying to hold the line in parts of southern and eastern Ukraine that it still occupies and claims as its own, have forced the Kremlin to introduce a military draft and to increasingly rely on mercenaries from Wagner and Chechen troops to replenish its depleted forces.

Arghandiwal said he was personally informed of the recruitment drive by “hundreds” of his former troops.

“The Russians, through the Wagner security company and in cooperation with the host country [Iran], where the majority of Afghanistan’s security and defense forces are [now] located, as well as some Afghans who previously moved to Iran and Russia, are trying to recruit commandos,” he said, RFE/RL reported.

He said that former members of the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, and other former security forces are next in line for recruitment to be taken to Russia and then on to fight in Ukraine.

Tens of thousands of Afghan troops and security personnel were trained by the U.S. military during the nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan that ended with a chaotic withdrawal of foreign forces and the Taliban retaking power in Kabul in August 2021.

Fearing retribution by the Taliban, many members of Afghanistan’s army, police, as well as military and intelligence officers loyal to the ousted government fled to Iran, Pakistan, and other countries.

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) had reported in May that even before the fall of Kabul, “around 3,000 Afghan security forces consisting of high-ranking officers to foot soldiers, along with their military equipment and vehicles, crossed the border into Iran”, although many returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban offered a general amnesty, RFE/RL reported.

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