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The CIA’s Afghan Death Squads

Author: Andrew Quilty

Affiliation: Freelance Photojournalist and Reporter

Organization/Publisher: The Intercept

Date/Place: December 18, 2020/UK

Type of Literature: Report

Word Count: 9532


Keywords:  Night Raids, Strike Force, Taliban, CIA




At least 10 undocumented night raids have occurred in the Afghan province of Wardak, conducted by CIA-trained local units. Locals have witnessed massacres, airstrikes and forced disappearances, resulting in a minimum of 51 deaths of people rarely linked to Taliban. The CIA has a history of forming local militias since the Cold War, but Afghanistan has a unique form. These units have no autonomy—their missions and targets are completely CIA made. This militia formula is in line with the US strategy of pulling out regular forces and replacing them with local units that act as strike units, starting in Obama’s presidency. Trump’s unrestricted war dramatically increased civilian casualties, specifically targeting harmless facilities, especially local Madrasas. These units are not accountable, and are controlled by the President since he has authority over covert actions; prosecution attempts flop due to American protection. Wardak province is an information black-hole that hinders incident reporting, amplified by the Taliban’s telecommunication restrictions. Any community that comes in contact with Taliban fighters, even if it is insignificant, has a target on their backs, resulting in villages attacked and civilians being murdered. Though the night raids have vanished since the US-Taliban agreement, the damage has already been done. Local resentment towards government impotence, the US’ heavy handed approach, and poverty have increased Taliban sympathies; thus the counter-terrorism strategies have backfired. American nation-building is over and the focus is extermination.


By: Omar Fili, CIGA Research Assistant

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