Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

US aid helps Afghan warlord build an empire

The most powerful man in many parts of Afghanistan is not the provincial governor, nor the police chief, nor even the commander of the Afghan Army. In Oruzgan Province, it is Matiullah Khan, the head of a private army that earns millions of dollars guarding NATO supply convoys and fights Taliban insurgents alongside American Special Forces. Matiullah’s role has grown beyond just business. His militia has been adopted by American Special Forces officers to gather intelligence and fight insurgents.

In little more than two years, Mr. Matiullah, an illiterate former highway patrol commander, has grown stronger than the government of Oruzgan Province, not only supplanting its role in providing security but usurping its other functions, his rivals say, like appointing public employees and doling out government largess. His fighters run missions with American Special Forces officers, and when Afghan officials have confronted him, he has either rebuffed them or had them removed. His income, according to one of his aides, is $2.5 million a month, an astronomical sum in a country as impoverished as this one.

Mr. Matiullah is one of several semiofficial warlords who have emerged across Afghanistan in recent months, as American and NATO officers try to bolster — and sometimes even supplant — ineffective regular Afghan forces. Many Afghans say the Americans and their NATO partners are making a grave mistake by tolerating or encouraging warlords like Mr. Matiullah.

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