Multiple Afghan military and security sources have said the elite National Army Commando Corps, which fought alongside U.S. forces for nearly two decades, have started joining up with Russian troops in Ukraine after the U.S. left them behind following its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, according to a report from news website Foreign Policy.
The force, comprised of 20,000 to 30,000 volunteer commandos, have faced persecution in their homeland after the U.S. departed as the Taliban took control of the country. A few hundred senior officials evacuated during the withdrawal, leaving thousands of soldiers to try and escape to neighboring countries or hide to avoid capture and execution.
A Department of Defense spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the Pentagon has “seen the reports” and that officials will “monitor” the situation but have nothing to say on the matter today. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. spent around $90 billion to build the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) from May 2022.
Rebekah Koffler, president of Doctrine & Strategy Consulting and a former DIA intelligence officer specializing in Russia and Putin, told Fox News Digital that the situation might prove more complicated than initial reports indicated as intelligence suggests that Iran may be helping Russia with its recruitment.
“Intelligence indicators suggest that Russian operatives, possibly with assistance from Iran, are recruiting Afghan soldiers and refugees, including those trained by U.S. forces, to fight on behalf of Russia in Ukraine,” Koffler said.
“In the aftermath of the hasty and disorganized U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan security personnel, translators and support staff had to flee as the Taliban took control,” she explained. “They became refugees in neighboring countries with no means of survival.”
The recruitment presents another troubling consequence of President Biden’s withdrawal with continued knock-on effects: many Afghanistan allies – possibly thousands – are still waiting to enter the U.S.
Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital that the report presents “one of the more unexpected consequences of President Biden’s rash and disastrous decision to precipitously withdraw from Afghanistan” and warned of the significant impact it could have on the war in Ukraine.
“Tens of thousands of commandos were left in Afghanistan to fend for themselves, and many are without work and being hunted by the Taliban,” said Roggio, who also edits the Long War Journal news site. “They are easy recruiting prey for the Russians, assuming they are willing to fight for the Russians.”
“If the Russians can recruit the commandos in large numbers, they can have an impact on the battlefield in Ukraine,” he added.