Russia, Wagner Group recruiting Afghan commandos to fight in Ukraine war: reports
The US journal Foreign Policy said it had seen recruitment messages sent to members of the light infantry National Army Commando Corps, which had some 20,000 personnel, asking if "anyone would like to go to Russia with better treatment and good resources".
"I am telling you [the recruiters] are Wagner Group... The only entity that recruits foreign troops [for Russia] are Wagner Group, not their army. It’s not an assumption; it’s a known fact," one former official, who was also previously a commando officer, told the US outlet.
Investigations outfit All Eyes on Wagner told The New Arab that it was "not surprising" that the Wagner Group might be involved in recruiting Afghans.
"The Wagner Group has developed the know-how and infrastructure to recruit and handle foreign mercenaries within their organisation," they said.
"Large-scale recruitment of Syrian mercenaries have been organised in the past by the Wagner Group to deploy them in Libya, for example."
As its war in Ukraine falters and young Russians flee conscription, Russia is trying to source manpower from elsewhere.
It has reportedly moved troops from Syria and elsewhere to the Ukraine front to bolster its war effort.
Afghan commandos left jobless after the Taliban took over Afghanistan last summer are a vulnerable target for recruitment drives.
"Looking at Afghanistan now you have trained and skilled military people who may not be able to work in the current situation and may not agree with the Taliban in power," All Eyes on Wagner said.
"They represent a prime pool of recruits: they need money, they may even have grown an anti-Western sentiment after the US withdrawal and some of them cannot stay in Afghanistan."
The extent of Wagner Group's ties to the Russian state remains unclear - but after years of denials, Russian oligarch and Putin aide Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted last month that he founded the military group in 2014.
It has been accused of committing massacres and other war crimes in Libya, Mali and Syria.