Willing to secure local domains and fight alongside Western forces, many of Afghanistan’s warlords are paid by U.S. and NATO commanders as “private security” businesses—even though these arrangements are threatening to undermine the West’s mission of establishing democracy in the country.
American and European officials have decided to do business with warlords because they are able to provide security that Afghanistan’s regular army cannot. But paying the warlords only bolsters their power in their provinces, where they—not local government leaders—call the shots.
One example is Matiullah Khan, who’s been paid millions by the West so that his private army will guard NATO supply convoys and fight the Taliban alongside American Special Forces. Matiullah has risen from being an illiterate former highway patrol commander to having more power in Oruzgan Province than the regional government.