Who is Abdul Ghani Alipoor--also known as Commander Shamshir--and why has he established an illegal armed group in his province? Where did the rift between his militia and government forces begin?
Alipoor is a commander in Behsud district of Maidan Wardak province, whose armed men--according to the Defense Ministry--shot down a government security forces helicopter around midnight on Thursday.
In a recent interview with local media outlets, Alipoor said that he is a commander of the Hizb-e-Wahdat-e-Islami Afghanistan (the Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan) faction of Abdul Ali Mazari; however, in 2004, when the government started the disarmament process, he handed over his weapons to the government and started working as a driver on the Kabul-Behsud route.
He said that after the attack of Kochis on people’s houses in Behsud district, and following the killing of people by the Taliban in 2014, he established a resistance group in Behsud, but reportedly the activities of “Commander Shamshir” have expanded to Ghor, Daikundi, Ghazni, Uruzgan, Sar-e-Pul and Bamiyan province.
“The Maidan valley in Maidan Wardak province was named the valley of death. What should we have done? What should the people have done? The government was so incapable that it could not support its own checkpoints for 48 hours. The checkpoints were not supplied until after all were killed,” Alipoor said in an interview with a local media outlet in Bamiyan 10 months ago.
Alipoor has not provided exact figures on the number of men in his militia, but one of his fighters said that he has at least 2,000 armed men in Behsud, some of whom have even sold all their belongings to buy a gun and join the commander.
“We were forced (to take up arms). Hazaras were taken hostage and were killed on Highway No. 2 in the Maidan valley on a daily basis,” said Reza, Alipoor’s fighter.
“I sold my cattle for 65,000 afghanis to buy this Kalashnikov rifle,” another fighter said.
On December 5, 2018, the National Directorate of Security, the country’s intelligence agency, arrested Alipoor on charges of having illegal armed men and performing illegal activities such as extortion and attacking security force members. His arrest was followed by five days of violent protest by his supporters, and, ultimately, he was released with the mediation of Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh, which resulted in an agreement. He returned to Behsud after his release.
“If they want to defend their country, they should join the Afghan security and defense forces like other Afghans who are sacrificing their lives every day from Helmand to Badakhshan,” National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said at press conference in Kabul on Saturday.
In another incident of fighting between special forces and Alipoor’s militia in February, at least 12 people were killed and 25 more were wounded.
The most recent incident occurred last week when Alipoor's militia, according to the Defense Ministry, downed an army helicopter by targeting it with a laser-guided weapon in Behsud district immediately after it took off from a base in the district shortly around midnight on Thursday.