HERAT -- Military officials in the western provinces of Afghanistan say Local Army forces have succeeded in pushing out the Taliban and prevented attacks in districts and villages across the region.
The western region's Local Army forces were established in 2018 within the framework of the National Army to help maintain security and stability in villages and areas under Taliban threat.
Sixteen Local Army units are active in Herat, Farah, Badghis and Ghor provinces, and 121 soldiers serve in each unit, said Maj. Gen. Abdul Raof Arghandiwal, commander of the 207th Zafar Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA).
"The Local Army is active in Herat province's Guzara, Keshk Kuhna, Pashtun Zarghun and Keshk Rabat Sangi districts; in Pur Chaman district of Farah Province; Badghis province's Ab Kamari and Qadis districts and Qala-e-Naw city; and Dawlatyar district [in Ghor province], as well as in Ghor province's capital," Arghandiwal said.
"Local Army soldiers are residents of these villages," he added. "When they join the army, they attend a military training course. Then they return to their villages equipped with the most advanced weapons to prevent the Taliban from entering their villages."
Such forces have already launched several successful operations against the Taliban and have proven to be very effective in preventing violence, he said.
Mohammad Naim Qadiri, a resident of Guzara district, Herat province, said Local Army forces stationed in his village have maintained security and halted the Taliban's activities.
"Members of the Local Army are youth from our own village," Naim said, adding that the Taliban were extorting money from his fellow villagers who own farmland and orchards under the guise of "taxes".
"Now that the Taliban cannot enter our village, people go about their normal lives and no longer live in fear," Naim said.
Bringing peace and security to villages
Meanwhile, on March 16, a group of 600 Local Army soldiers graduated after completing a three-month training course at the 207th Zafar Corps Training Centre in Herat.
The newly graduated forces have been deployed to Shahrak and Dawlatyar districts, Ghor province; Qadis district, Badghis province; and Pur Chaman district, Farah province.
The Taliban harass villagers in areas under their control, and residents have no choice but to tolerate the brutality out of fear for their lives, said Local Army soldier Sana-ul-Haq, who is from Tulak district in Ghor province.
"Now that we have studied at the military academy and learned how to fight the Taliban, we are prepared to go back to our village and save our people from the Taliban's cruelty," Sana-ul-Haq said. "I will defend my people and country against the terrorists to the last drop of my blood."
The Taliban torture residents of remote villages and force them to pay "taxes", said Mirwais Mohammadi, a member of the Local Army in Keshk Kuhna district, Herat province.
He witnessed the Taliban beating his fellow villagers for money, which is why he decided to join the Local Army to stand against the Taliban, he said.
Mohammad Alam Dawlatyar, a Local Army soldier from Dawlatyar district, Ghor province, said that he intends to defend the lives and property of his loved ones.
'Limiting Taliban activities'
Some areas, particularly villages, have more Local Army soldiers than ANA forces because locals are more familiar with the landscape of their village and can easily identify the enemy, said Arghandiwal.
"Like the ANA, the Local Army is equipped with advanced facilities and weapons," he emphasised. "They have the upper hand in the fight against the Taliban. That is the reason why no district has fallen in the hands of the Taliban in any part of the western region."
Local Army forces play a crucial role in securing villages and stopping the Taliban's activities, said Mohammad Naim Ghayur of Herat, a military analyst.
"Any increase in the number of Local Army [forces] and their deployment to villages and districts will further limit Taliban activities," Ghayur added.
Since members of the Local Army are from the same villages where they work, the residents support them, and the Taliban's chances of infiltrating villages have been reduced to zero, he said.