THE U.S. LOST A KEY ALLY IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN. BUT ABDUL RAZIQ WAS NO HERO. | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

THE U.S. LOST A KEY ALLY IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN. BUT ABDUL RAZIQ WAS NO HERO.

Raziq was a classic product of America’s failed policy in Afghanistan, wherein personalities have been propped up over — and sometimes at the expense of — institutions. Of the $557 billion America spent in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2011, just 5.4 percent went toward governance. Most of the money was spent on security, which enriched men like Raziq.

Instead of building up the Afghan state, the U.S. and its NATO allies supported local strongmen like Raziq, providing short-term security at the cost of meaningful state-building. By financing and encouraging extralegal militias, NATO undermined the very government institutions it sought to strengthen. By bypassing law enforcement and running operations with private militias, the U.S. Special Forces created a culture of impunity, in which corruption and the drug trade flourished. Raziq and his militia were seen as a means of winning against the insurgents, and the existence of men like him was framed as a necessary evil, even as torture and extrajudicial killings went unchecked.

Some Afghanistan watchers have expressed concern that Raziq’s death will demoralize the Afghan security forces and damage attempts at peace talks with the Taliban. But it is the very existence of men like Raziq — men who built their careers brutalizing not only the Taliban, but also the public — that is a practical impediment to negotiations.

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