Ghorband Valley, Afghanistan – Zahir Salangi, a member of parliament from Afghanistan in northern Parwan province, was hoping to settle into a “doshak” (pillow) for a quick nap when the sound of gunfire reached the already damaged house he had installed · Lat. as the basis.
“I haven’t slept in four days,” he told Al Jazeera last week as he sat down to give orders to the nearly two dozen volunteer fighters he had recruited in the fight against the Taliban.
Volunteers say Taliban fighters usually shoot them from the mountains surrounding the lush valley.
When Salangi got up, one of the fighters started shouting orders at the walkie-talkie. A pile of glass fragments from previous shots were broken into smaller pieces under the weight of the boots as he walked from side to side of the room.
“Answer! Don’t stop shooting! Don’t leave them unanswered, ”he said as the sounds of gunfire resounded from the tops of the mountain.
The men are among at least 500 local residents who have taken up arms in recent weeks as the deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces on 9/11 approaches.
On Monday, Abdul Quayom Rahimi, governor of Logar province, gathered hundreds of men carrying weapons and the tricolor flag of Afghanistan in the provincial capital, Pol-e Alam.
While anti-Taliban volunteers had begun appearing in Logar earlier this year, Rahimi said he has had hundreds of men calling for him to join his force in recent weeks.
Rahimi said Monday’s rally was a “demonstration of deliberate and public force.”
“People know what’s at stake and they want to show the Taliban that even if there’s no one else to help, the people of Logar and all the provinces will bring the fight directly to them,” he told Al Jazeera.
“They didn’t save anyone”
Although the Ghorband Valley, 120 km (74 miles) north of the capital Kabul, has long been one of the most unsafe districts in Parwan, volunteers say recent events have forced them to take up arms and defend his people against the Taliban.
In recent weeks, dozens of districts, including Parwan, have fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Many of these districts were recaptured by Afghan forces within days.
But these men, most from the Salang district, 95 km (59 miles) to the east, say stories they had heard of Taliban actions on days dominating the areas were too much to control.
“They fired directly at the houses. They burned people’s houses, their fields, their shops. They didn’t spare anyone or anything, “he told Al Jazeera Daoud, a 50-year-old volunteer fighter who arrived in Ghorband more than two weeks ago.
To prove his point, Daoud mentioned two recent incidents in which Taliban fighters and Afghan troops were killed.
“We returned the body of the Taliban, covered it with garlands and called it a martyr,” he said, near a military checkpoint on the outskirts of the valley.
But Afghan forces were not given the same respect, Daoud said.
“A couple of days ago, Afghan soldiers were killed by one of their (Taliban) mines. We asked for what was left of the bodies behind. They refused. “
Politicians such as Salangi and Kabul officials are also trying to allay fears of discord between combat groups and Afghan security forces.
Khan Agha Rezayee, a Kabul lawmaker who has been in contact with groups of volunteers taking up arms in the northern provinces, said it is not uncommon to see them working with traditional security forces.
“When you go to these areas, you will see that volunteers are there to help the army and police in their operations,” he told Al Jazeera.
In the twenty years of U.S.-led invasion, Afghan security forces have also struggled with lack of funding and supply. The forces of the uprising must act as a way to mitigate these shortcomings.
Amir Amiri, an Afghan soldier from the neighboring province of Panjshir, praised the commitment of the volunteer forces.
“They are risking their lives without any salary to protect their homeland,” he said, next to a white-bearded man who was about 60 years old.
“Look at him, he’s so old and he’s still willing to defend the nation against the enemy.”
Lawmaker Salangi said admiration goes both ways. “It raises the morale of our troops to see how people leave their lives and their families to come and support them in their struggle.”
The idea of volunteer groups providing a moral boost to the troops arose several times during conversations with civilian fighters who spoke with Al Jazeera.
Volunteers said the brazenness of recent Taliban attacks forced them to join the fight.
Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said the fact that Afghans are willing to take up arms and fight alongside their security forces is a clear sign of the “hatred and disgust” that the Afghan people have. has for the Taliban and their practices.
Aman said ordinary people are ready to fight alongside the security forces because the forces are willing to make the “final sacrifice” against the Taliban’s “profane war”.
Many Afghans support a recent wave of nearly 30,000 people taking up arms across the country, while others question the wisdom of arming so many people in a country where millions of dollars were invested in disarmament and reintegration programs.
Both Salangi and Rezayee say people should not be afraid of volunteer groups. “These people only protect what is theirs,” Rezayee said.
Rezayee added that the Taliban’s efforts to take the major cities were another driving factor that led to the increase in groups of armed volunteers.
He said volunteer forces are nothing new in the country and are simply an extension of previous efforts, such as local Afghan police, which established U.S.-funded forces that were responsible for repelling attacks. Taliban at the village level.
There have also been movements by other people to withdraw armed opposition groups from the country. In 2017, residents of various districts in the eastern province of Nangarhar took up arms against forces claiming to belong to the so-called Islamic State.
Back in Ghorband, the yellow house continues to tremble at the constant sounds of gunfire. The fighting, which began around ten in the morning, continued until the afternoon.
But for the volunteer forces, no fear or fatigue could take them away from their work.
“We are here to protect the people,” Salangi said as he put his pakol hat on his head and walked out the door to order his fighters to retaliate.