Highly trained elite commandos abandoned by the U.S. and its Western allies after the hasty pull-out of Afghanistan are now potentially being recruited by Russia for its war in Ukraine.
Foreign Policy magazine said in a report that the Western allies spent almost $90 billion to build the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, which were trained by the Navy SEALs and the British Special Air Service.
When the U.S. ceded control of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August 2021, only a few hundred senior officers were evacuated. Meanwhile, the Western allies left behind a total of 20,000 to 30,000 volunteer commandos.
While many of the commandos who remained in Afghanistan are in hiding to avoid capture and execution by the Taliban, thousands of others have escaped to neighboring countries.
The report quoted an unidentified military source who said: “They have no country, no jobs, no future. They have nothing to lose.”
“They are waiting for work for $3 to $4 a day in Pakistan or Iran or $10 a day in Turkey, and if Wagner or any other intelligence services come to a guy and offer $1,000 to be a fighting man again, they won’t reject it. And if you find one guy to recruit, he can get half his old unit to join up because they are like brothers — and pretty soon, you’ve got a whole platoon,” the source added.
These “jobless and hopeless” commandos from Afghanistan’s former defense forces are now being recruited by the Wagner Group on behalf of Russia to fight in Ukraine, the report also claimed.
The Wagner Group is a shadowy Russian mercenary private military company deeply intertwined with the Russian military and intelligence community. Much is not known about the origins of the group, although reports said it was created by Dmitry Utkin, a former Russia special services officer, based on his own call sign reportedly being “Wagner.”
The mercenary outfit is allegedly bankrolled and controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch known as “Putin’s chef,” who is a close ally of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
With Ukrainian forces having retaken large swathes of its territory in a counteroffensive that started last month, the Wagner Group has itself is rapidly losing its fighters and equipment.
The group is also reported to have contacted locally organized crime groups in Latin America and European nations, such as Czechia, Moldova, Hungary and Turkey to replenish its forces by recruiting mercenaries.
“I am telling you [the recruiters] are Wagner Group. They are gathering people from all over. The only entity that recruits foreign troops [for Russia] are Wagner Group, not their army. It’s not an assumption; it’s a known fact,” an unnamed Afghan commando officer said, as per the report.
“They’d be better used by Western allies to fight alongside Ukrainians. They don’t want to fight for the Russians; the Russians are the enemy. But what else are they going to do?” he said further.
Foreign Policy also claimed to have seen recruitment messages with similar phrasing, which hints at a centralized operation, according to the outlet. The said message seeks anyone “who would like to go to Russia with better treatment and good resources,” asking them to send their name, father’s name and military rank.
Recipients are also asked to help recruit other members of their units, with indications that Iran could also be part of the recruitment nexus that offers Russian citizenship.
Facing major losses on the battlefront, the Russian president issued late last month a veiled nuclear threat and decreed a partial mobilization to assemble more than the 300,000 men announced for the war in Ukraine. Lacking both training and equipment to confront highly motivated Ukrainian forces, most of these men have ended up on the battlefield as cannon fodder.