Global News spoke to three former members of the Afghan special forces, including their commander, Lt. Gen. Mohammad Farid Ahmadi.
“I said, ‘Ukraine and Russia is not your country. If you die, you have to die for your country,’” Ahmadi told Global News.
He alleges Russia, through intermediaries in Iran, is trying to lure his former troops to the war in Ukraine with promises of money and fast-tracked Russian citizenship for themselves and their families.
“They are receiving offers and some of them have already gone,” said Ahmaidi. “They haven’t had any contact with their families or with their friends.”
Thousands of ex-members of the Afghan special forces have escaped Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in 2021. Ahmadi was already out of the country before the fall of Kabul, receiving treatment in Turkey following an injury.
His soldiers were designed to be elite, homegrown commandos to fight the Taliban. They were trained by NATO countries, including Canada.
But after Afghanistan fell, these highly-skilled operators found themselves on Taliban kill lists, targeted for their history of hunting down top Taliban commanders. Many fled to neighbouring countries like Iran where they now live illegally and struggle to find work.
Some of these former special forces members say they’re receiving offers to take up arms for the Kremlin on social media. An apparent recruitment letter shared with Global News is circulating on platforms like WhatsApp and Signal, offering Afghans “a monthly salary of $1500 USD from the moment they enter Russia” and a “Russian Federation passport.”
When asked about the alleged recruitment efforts, the Russian Embassy in Canada told Global News, “We have no information about this topic.”
Ex-Afghan soldiers, living as illegal migrants, say they are desperate and running out of options.
“It’s better for me to go to Ukraine and fight for the benefit of Russia than for my family to starve,” said a former member of the Afghan special forces. Global News is protecting his identity because of the threat of deportation.
“If I fall into the hands of the Iranian regime, they will deport me to Afghanistan where the Taliban will kill me.”
Another former special forces member who asked to remain anonymous spoke to Global News. “The situation in Iran is harsh, we can’t work,” he told Global News. “NATO has left us alone.”
The ex-soldier is considering joining a fellow comrade, who has already left to fight for Russian forces.
“It’s been two months since we had contact with him. His phone was cut off.”
The former Afghan soldiers who spoke to Global News say they don’t want to take up arms for Russia, but have few options. They believe Western governments, including Canada, have turned their backs on Afghan soldiers.
“They have a moral responsibility to save their lives,” said Ahmadi. “They were a partner. They were loyal.”
Afghan special forces are not specifically included in the federal government’s pledge to settle 40,000 Afghan refugees. The government says it is prioritizing groups it considers vulnerable, like Afghan language interpreters and their families.
But with Moscow growing more desperate for soldiers, military experts say migrants are becoming easy targets for the Russian regime.
“It’s a clear sign that Vladimir Putin is extremely desperate,” said Marcus Kolga, a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
“Vladimir Putin does not want to impose a national mobilization, forcing all Russians to be conscripted into the army. Right now, popularity for the war domestically is starting to decline,” said Kolga.
The British Ministry of Defence warned on Monday that “Russian military recruiters have been targeting central Asian migrant workers in Russia to serve in Ukraine” at mosques and immigration offices.
With the war dragging into its second year, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress says it is not surprised by the recruitment tactics.
“Russia is trying to exploit poverty in other parts of the world, and in some cases, poverty that Russia itself is complicit in creating,” said Orest Zakydalsky, a senior policy adviser with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
“It’s a vicious cycle.”
Source : Global News