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U.S.-trained Afghan troops working to join Russia's war in Ukraine

They reportedly feel abandoned by the United States, which they blame for their current situation.

Published: December 28, 2022 1:05pm

Updated: December 28, 2022 1:31pm

Thousands of U.S.-trained Afghan troops are reportedly considering joining Russian forces as mercenaries to fight in Ukraine as they face a life of poverty in Iran. 

Many of the former service members are living in Iran, where they fled after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal in August 2021, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Tuesday. The former troops say they are now completing manual labor and even rummaging through trash to sell.

They reportedly feel abandoned by the United States, which they blame for their current situation.

The former troops, many of whom were elite commandos, often say that joining Russia's private paramilitary Vagner Group would be a better option than the struggles they are currently facing. Some former troops are already moving to join, according to WhatsApp messages viewed by the outlet. 

"After the fall of the country's traitorous presidential regime, [the United States] sold us out and surrendered the country to terrorists (the Taliban)," one former Afghan special forces member said in a WhatsApp channel. "Several of our peers were captured and beheaded, and we were forced to leave Afghanistan."

Although the U.S. airlifted an estimated 80,000 at-risk Afghans, and a few with known security risks, up to 30,000 former Afghan soldiers were left behind and escaped to Iran.

One former Afghan officer estimated that 2,500 former soldiers left Afghanistan to go to Russia. He said he was offered $2,500 for six months of training and an additional $3,000 in Ukraine.

Vagner is offering former Afghan special forces a safe haven for them and their families as well as $1,500 a month to relocate to Russia and fight in Ukraine.

"Serious security and economic problems and extreme poverty and desperation have forced them to do this for a bite of bread, to survive, and to escape the pursuit and torture of the Taliban," General Farid Ahmadi, a former Afghan commander, said. 

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