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This runaway Afghan general should push his own off button

A street vendor walks past a mural depicting an Afghan National Army soldier in Kabul on 10 June 2021 [ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images]
A street vendor walks past a mural depicting an Afghan National Army soldier in Kabul on 10 June 2021 [ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images]

I read with some incredulity that a former three-star general in the Afghan National Army is planning to launch a new war against the ruling Taliban eight months after the movement's victory which brought an end to a brutal 20-year conflict involving US-led NATO forces. According to defeated Lieutenant General Sami Sadat, his new offensive will begin after Eid when he plans to return to Afghanistan. "I would do anything and everything in our power to make sure Afghanistan is freed from the Taliban and a democratic system is re-established," he told the BBC.

Normally I would have laughed at his words, but this brute of a man — who at 37 was Afghanistan's youngest general — is anything but funny. He should be heading to The Hague to stand trial for war crimes along with countless notorious warlords and ANA officers who killed Afghan civilians ruthlessly and routinely over two decades.

In Yakh Chal in Helmand province, locals still remember 2006 when their friends were gunned down by an ANA helicopter as they raked through debris at an Afghan military post looking for something to sell. The post had been destroyed by Taliban fighters the day before, making it an ideal spot for enterprising villagers to scavenge for scrap. The Blackhawk helicopter gunship was flying just feet off the ground with its deadly weapons trained on scores of civilians including children: around 50 were killed.

At about the same time, and on the same day, helicopters fired upon the crowded central market in nearby Gereshk, killing scores more civilians. One of the pilots admitted later that the slaughter was ordered by Sadat in revenge for Taliban actions.

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Journalist Anand Gopal would write later: "During my visit to Helmand, Blackhawks under his [Sadat's] command were committing massacres almost daily: twelve Afghans were killed while scavenging scrap metal at a former base outside Sangin; forty were killed in an almost identical incident at the Army's abandoned Camp Walid; twenty people, most of them women and children, were killed by air strikes on the Gereshk bazaar; Afghan soldiers who were being held prisoner by the Taliban at a power station were targeted and killed by their own comrades in an air strike." Despite repeated requests, the normally media-friendly Sadat declined to speak to Gopal.

US withdraws from Afghanistan, where is this heading to...- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

US withdraws from Afghanistan, where is this heading to…- Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Sadly none of these allegations were put to him in any great detail or with any great force in an unusually non-combative interview by the BBC's veteran journalist Lyse Doucet. Nor did she appear to ask him about claims of his alleged war profiteering activities. Although he held senior roles in the ANA, Sadat found time to work as the CEO of Blue Sea Logistics, a Kabul-based corporation that sold anti-Taliban forces everything from helicopter parts to armoured tactical vehicles. Another company was set up by him in December after he fled to London. Called Sadat Consultants Limited, he describes himself as the chairman.

Imagine the outcry if the head of the British Army or one of his most senior officers was running a defence company that supplied millions of pounds worth of contracts to the British Army. That's the sort of situation that was allowed under the Western-backed regime, "which was as corrupt and brutal as any," according to Zack Kopplin writing in Prospect.

Bear in mind that the US spent more than $83 billion training, equipping and developing the Afghan army, police, air force and Special Forces. Little wonder, then, that US President Joe Biden was so angry at the spectacular defeat and rapid demise of the ANA which allowed the Taliban to sweep to power across Afghanistan in just ten days last year.

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The question is, therefore, who on earth is going to back Sadat financially in his ludicrous new anti-Taliban offensive? Certainly not the US or NATO allies who have now moved on to a new military venture supporting the plucky Ukrainian resistance. After the corruption pandemic which swept through Afghanistan's defence and interior ministries, NATO countries would be mad to waste more money.

I'm just as curious as to who from the ranks of the demoralised ANA would even fight for Sadat. While the young general cannot be held wholly responsible for the widespread corruption, it will take a lot to persuade soldiers to take up arms once again when many were left unpaid and refused leave to see their families for months on end. The only thing that this demoralised army ever won was the rosette for the highest desertion and casualty rates in the world. Little wonder that the soldiers opted to save their skins by accepting the Taliban's offers of amnesty.

There's always someone, though. According to an audio message "leaked" mysteriously recently to the media, Sadat wants to "re-liberate" Afghanistan and, "I am in contact with my brother Ahmad Massoud and we support his actions in every way, I also contact and support other resistance groups." However, try as I might, I can't see any talks with the National Resistance Front (NRF) led by Massoud, son of the late, legendary Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, being fruitful. Nor can I imagine any war-weary Afghans shelling out vast sums of money to fund a resistance campaign.

It's all very murky, but having recently returned from Afghanistan, I believe that the only thing that is abundantly clear is that after five decades of conflict, civil war and hardship of a kind few of us will ever be able to imagine, the Afghans do not need more war. Afghan author Khaled Hosseini — The Kite Runner — put it succinctly when he wrote: "Quiet is peace. Tranquillity. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button."

Afghanistan will stand a better chance of peace if the belligerent three-star general remains in London, turns down the volume, and pushes his own off button. The people of Afghanistan deserve nothing less.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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