Warlord Matiullah Khan

Matiullah Khan became a powerful man not only by providing security and intelligence to the Australian forces in Uruzgan province but also through his involvement in human rights violations

Warlord Matiullah Khan


The US and Australian armies have systematically ignored the unlawful killing and torture by the criminal militia of warlord Matiullah Khan in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan. On October 13, 2010, The Daily Age reported that the decision of the director of military prosecution, Brigadier Lyn McDade, against the war crimes of Australian army commandos in the village of Sur-e-Murghab in Uruzgan province was met with mixed responses. The Australian army’s military and financial support to the criminal militia of Matiullah Khan has created misunderstandings about its role in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. The gradual development of Matiullah Khan’s controversial story of killings and torture has been the nucleus of debate since he entered an agreement with the US and Australian armies in Uruzgan province. The role he played as a war criminal, highway-patrolling officer and police commander raised serious questions about his personality.
He worked with both the Taliban and Australian army but failed to build his credibility as a professional police commander in Uruzgan province because of this conflict of interests. Like the head of Lashkar-e-Islam, Mangal Bagh Afridi, in the FATA region, Matiullah Khan was a taxi driver. After the US’s invasion of Afghanistan, he became a highway patrolling police commander. He was made inspector general of police in Uruzgan despite the allegations of severe human rights violations against him. In 2008, he became a powerful man not only by providing security and intelligence to the Australian forces in Uruzgan but also through his involvement in human rights violations.
Paradoxically, Khan established a criminal militia of 3,000 well-trained soldiers called the Uruzgan Protection Army (Kandak Amuniat Uruzgan) and entered into an agreement with Australian and US forces for the protection of their military convoys. According to the Daily Australian, in 2008, Matiullah Khan was receiving $ 340,000 dollars per month. His criminal militia charged each NATO cargo truck up to $ 1,200 for safe passage and $ 800 for smaller cargos. Khan’s militia has been involved in mass murder, rape and abductions of men and women. The New York Times reported that he was earning $ 2.5 million a month through highway robbery, abduction, drug trafficking and extortion. Once, Khan warned his opponents that he could eliminate them by purchasing suicide bombers with the money he received from the Australian army. WikiLeaks of the US embassy pinned him as a stand-over merchant, a wealthy warlord and drug trafficker. Australian intelligence knew he was a corrupt war criminal but, despite the US army’s opposition, the Australian army and intelligence corps lobbied to make him an inspector general of the Uruzgan police in 2011.
The Australian army and military intelligence corps have also been engaged with his private militia in Uruzgan for years. Some media reports have raised serious questions about the role that the Australian army played in the war against the Taliban in Uruzgan. The Australian military intelligence agency never criticised him for killing children and women. The agency supported his criminal militia in the fight against his opponents. The Australian army has praised him publicly yet it also accepts that he has been guilty of illegal killings in Uruzgan province. On March 19, 2015, Tolonews reported the killing of war criminal Matiullah Khan in the outskirts of Kabul by unknown men. He shared troops and information with both the Taliban and the Australian army, thus playing the role of a double agent. He received money from both the Australian and US armies, and shared it with Taliban commanders. Australian Air Marshall Angus Houston told reporters that Khan’s militia had participated in combat training exercises in southern Australia and at a military base on the outskirts of Sydney.
Khan was a trusted ally of Australian army intelligence and maintained secret relations with Taliban commanders as well. Australian newspapers reported controversial news stories of his fighters’ recruitment in Australian army units in the country. His militiamen were trained in the elite special forces units and some were trained for intelligence purposes. Martin Van Bijlert said in Kabul: “We are shaping [Afghanistan] to our short-term needs rather than what the country needs in the long term. Does the country really need commanders with what are in essence private armies?” The Australian national security intelligence service, Australian army and the Australian intelligence corps supported him. News reports from the Sydney Morning Herald exposed the reality of Australia’s building project in Afghanistan.
Moreover, De Pers, the Dutch daily, reported his brutality in a massacre in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province where his criminal militia killed more than 80 people. Leaked documents from Afghanistan also confirmed the support of the Australian army to his militia. In November 2007, the Australian Special Air Service (SAS) killed three men, two women and a child in an attack on a house that allegedly belonged to an insurgent. In April 2009, the Melbourne Age reported that members of the Australian defence force had covered up attacks on civilians by SAS troops. During the same month, the newspaper reported the use of SAS patrols as death squads to carry out assassinations in Afghanistan. ABC TV also reported the killings of poor and powerless men and women during the Australian army’s hunt for a Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan.
There are numerous stories of his war crimes published in world-class newspapers but the government of former President Hamid Karzai and the Australian army never thought to establish a judicial commission to investigate Khan. In fact, when the Australian army started recruiting and training his militia’s members in the elite special forces’ units, the legality of Afghan national army was denied. On the one hand, the Australian army was working with the Afghan national army under its nation-building project in Afghanistan and training members of Matiullah Khan’s private militia on the other. Due to this controversial approach to the war in Afghanistan, the commitment and sincerity of the Australian army and its military intelligence corps is in question.

The writer is author of Punjabi Taliban and can be reached at: zai.musakhan222@gmail.com