Meet the man who just might be saving our ass in Afghanistan: Abdul Razziq.
U.S. officials say Razziq, who is illiterate and just 32, presides over a vast corruption network that skims customs duties, facilitates drug trafficking and smuggles other contraband. But he also has managed to achieve a degree of security here that has eluded U.S. troops elsewhere in the country: His force of 3,000 uniformed policemen and several thousand militiamen pursue the Taliban so relentlessly that Spin Boldak has become the safest and most prosperous district in southern Afghanistan.
Razziq is the chief of the Achakzais, one of the largest tribes in southern Afghanistan. He keeps the area relatively stable and quiet, allowing U.S. and other forign forces to focus efforts elsewhere. He just doesn’t do it in the most lawful of ways.
“He’s like this Robin Hood figure who appears from nowhere, takes money and uses it to meet [the people’s] needs,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Green, the commander of a U.S. Army infantry battalion in Spin Boldak. “He picks favorites, for sure, but he’s smart enough not to make too many enemies, which isn’t something you can say about every power broker in Afghanistan.
He’s fiercely loyal to current president, Hamid Karzai; it’s been suggested that he helped rig last year’s presidential election. Others say he funnels much of the money he illegally obtains directly to the Karzai family.
Late last year, these allegations led NATO officials to push for Karzai’s resignation, but Afghan commanders argued against it. Instead, NATO and US officials are trying to reform Razziq by installing a chaperon to monitor his behavior, along with offering incentives based on improved behavior.
“As long as we don’t catch him moving trucks full of opium through the desert, we’ll let him slide,” the Army officer said. “If his men are shaking people down on the highway, well, that’s just the way it’s done here. It’s no different from tollbooths on the highways back home.”
While he might not fit any conventional definition of “good,” Abdul Razziq is helping make Afghanistan safer for American forces. That’s good enough for us.