Between the ‘Campaign’ and the Taliban

June 10, 2017 08:38 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 05:01 pm IST

At this time of the year, almost everyone in the city of Khost, in eastern Afghanistan, seems to be busy. For outsiders, the reason is not too obvious. “The wheat is ripe and people get down to work,” said Nawaz, who works at a local bank. Since the province’s economy is mainly dependent on its wheat production, even his daily life as a bank assistant becomes a bit more hectic during the harvest season. However, he does not want to complain. “Others have much more to do, especially those who work on the fields.”

Although Afghanistan is facing war, destruction and poverty since years, Khost seems to have a vibrant economy. “Many people from other parts of the country come to work here. They are satisfied and don’t want to leave any more,” said Naseer, who leads the city’s only stock broker office. Mr. Naseer’s office is located in the middle of Khost’s bazaar and, like in the West, the working routine of the stock brokers is a busy one. However, Mr. Naseer is sure that such work life is attractive for young and educated Afghans.

The Khost Protection Force, a militia that directly operates under the CIA, keeps the city safe from the Taliban but their criminal past and methods scare off the locals as well

“For many people in Afghanistan, stock broking is something totally new. We want to change that, and I think there’s lots of interest, especially among the youth,” he said.

Seeing this busy business life, one might forget about the province’s security situation. Although the city of Khost is considered safe by locals, many districts, especially those which lie next to neighbouring Pakistan, are well-known war areas. The Taliban remain in control there, while airstrikes by both NATO and the Afghan National Army take place regularly, killing militants as well as civilians.

The city is under the control of the Khost Protection Force (KPF), an Afghan militia that directly operates under the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S. intelligence agency. The militia, which is mainly known as ‘Campaign’ among the locals, has set up many checkpoints in the city. Nobody can enter Khost without passing by them. Additionally, their behaviour and appearance, as well as the weapons they carry, distinguish them from the regular army.

Many residents know that their city is safe from the Taliban because of the KPF. However, many are afraid of the Campaign as well, and know that the status quo cannot be seen as real safety. “These people have high salaries. They get hundreds of dollars each month from the Americans. But once, many of them were thieves and criminals. If the U.S. drops them, they would loot our city in a single night,” said Sangar, a shopkeeper.

Taliban attack

A few weeks ago, it became clear how the setting up of such a militia could backfire. On the first day of the month of Ramzan, a Taliban car bomb targeted the KPF in the middle of Khost, killing at least 12 persons. According to the province’s police chief, members of the militia were returning from a mission and had stopped at the crowded bazaar when the car bomb exploded.

It was not immediately clear how many of the casualties were civilians or members of the Campaign. According to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, the attack had been planned for months and that it had targeted “the strike force that is trained by the American CIA”.

In the past, the KPF has been repeatedly accused of human rights violations. They care little about civilian casualties during their night raids, say locals. Neverthless, the law of the land can’t touch them. “Nobody, not even the President, can do anything against them. They are free of any kind of charges because they work for the Americans,” said one local.

Emran Febroz is a freelance journalist based in Stuttgart and was recently in Afghanistan

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.