Colonel Razziq: 'Godfather' of the Afghan border

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 13, 2009 01:40 hrs

Colonel Abdul Razziq is a sworn enemy of the Taliban and reigns supreme along southern Afghanistan's mountainous border with Pakistan. He is someone foreign forces cannot ignore.

The 33-year-old with a closely-clipped beard and winning smile commands 1,300 border police in Kandahar province, and has been credited with bringing relative security to the remote district of Spin Boldak.

"He is a very influential individual around this area," said Lieutenant Colonel William Clark, in charge of the 700 US soldiers from Stryker brigade who have been based here for several months.

"His influence reaches beyond the Afghan border police. It also reaches the Afghan national security forces. People defer to him for all major decisions. He has a stabilising influence within the Spin Boldak district."

Razziq -- called "general" by everyone, even though he doesn't hold the rank -- is softly spoken and fingers prayer beads while he talks. His brother and uncle were both killed by the Taliban when he was young.

For him, all the security problems in the region come from over the border in Pakistan.

"The security situation around the region is very good," he said. "There are some Taliban but not a lot. Their main activity is to place road mines. We have no other challenges from them."

But he added: "The problem is this is a border region. There is some intimidation from the other side of the region, not directly here. Insurgents and Taliban are active on the other side of the border.

"They are working on explosive material" in nearby Chaman, Pakistan, he said.

"(Taliban leader) Mullah (Mohammed) Omar lives in Quetta, as well as key leaders of the Taliban. They all have their meetings there."

As for members of Al-Qaeda, who claimed the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States that led to the military action in Afghanistan, "they don't have safe havens in Afghanistan. They are in Pakistan," he said.

At the door, a dozen or so armed young Afghan bodyguards with AK-47 assault rifles wait for their charismatic leader, who regularly receives death threats and has been subject to assassination attempts.

Nicknamed "The Godfather", Razziq, who is said to be close to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is strongly suspected of having profited from the drugs trade.

The region he controls is a main smuggling route for narcotics between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But the US military prefers not to speculate on this grey area.

"He has managed to enforce a level of security that is arguably not seen in other areas in RC (Regional Command) South," said one US officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"He keeps an extensive network of people that provide information to him. He's sharing that intelligence. He's been very helpful."

In particular, "General" Razziq has a wide knowledge of where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) -- the weapon of choice for the Taliban against foreign forces -- have been planted in the region.

In recent days, a heavily-armoured US convoy on a reconnaissance mission was forced to return to base because the terrain was too difficult and damaged its mine-sweeping vehicles.

Razziq and his men were waiting for them at a pre-arranged rendezvous point after picking through the treacherous terrain in a Humvee.

"We are cooperating in Spin Boldak. We are going on patrols together," he said of the Americans.

Unlike other police recruits around Afghanistan, his men are being trained by members of the former US security group Blackwater, which renamed itself Xe after a shooting in Iraq in 2007 that left as many as 17 civilians dead.

But he said there could be problems if the US pull out.

"If they withdraw, maybe I will be able to operate by myself but I will have a lot of problems. My difficulties will increase. For example, if I have an injured soldier, I don't have aircraft to take them to the hospital.

"We also don't have technological equipment and weapons," he said, before leaving to inspect his troops.

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