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While Raziq’s strategy worked in some ways, driving back the Taliban in Kandahar and earning him the admiration of many of his opponents, it clearly came at a cost. It stoked so much hostility among parts of the population that the Taliban turned his brutality into a recruiting tool, using radio broadcasts to attract new fighters. Many Afghans came to insult the U.S.-backed government and everything it stood for.

“None of us supported the Taliban, at least not at first,” said Fazur Rahman, whose brother was kidnapped in front of witnesses during Raziq’s rule. “But when the government fell, I ran through the streets in joy.”

Even some who cheered Raziq’s brutal tactics against his enemies bemoaned the broader corruption and criminality he fueled, a key part of the Afghan government’s collapse in 2021. After his death, his commanders further expanded their plunder, extorting and stealing from ordinary people. their own wages and supplies.

“What they brought in the name of democracy was a system in the hands of some mafia groups,” said Qari Mohammed Mubarak, who runs a girls’ school in Kandahar and initially supported the government. “People are starting to hate democracy.”

Many U.S. commanders, diplomats and their allies in Afghanistan knew at the time that they were financing a war that went far beyond international law.

“Sometimes we ask Razik about alleged human rights violations, and when we get the answer, we say, ‘Wow, I hope we don’t implicate ourselves in war crimes just because we heard about this,'” Henry Ensher said the State Department official, who has served in various roles on Afghanistan, including serving as the top civilian representative in Kandahar in 2010 and 2011, worked with Raziq.

“We knew what we were doing, but we felt we had no choice,” Enschel said.

Most U.S. leaders, including more than a dozen interviewed by The Times, said Raziq was seen as the only partner capable of pushing back the Taliban in the heart of the insurgency, where a fierce fighting is taking place. The battle for dominance.

“At this point, we may have succeeded, but so what?” Enschel said. “The entire enterprise is flawed.”

Many Afghans say Raziq used the Americans and their military might to satisfy a personal vendetta and exact revenge on a rival his tribe had fought for decades.

In interviews, many former senior U.S. officials admitted they never grasped this dynamic. This is a defining feature of a generation of wars—the United States knows so little about the war it is waging.

The United Nations, human rights groups and news media have expressed serious concerns about Raziq and his forces, but independent investigations have been limited, especially given that the area was so difficult to penetrate during the war.

To determine the extent of the abuses, The Times combed through more than 50,000 handwritten complaints scrawled on the Kandahar governor’s ledger between 2011 and 2017. war is over 2021. Among them, we found essential details about nearly 2,200 suspected disappearances.

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