Photo: Rahmat Gul/AP

CIA’s Afghan allies struggle with mental health problems in the US, Washington Post reports

In a report published on Thursday, The Washington Post reported that Afghan soldiers who worked with the CIA are experiencing depression and war injuries after being transferred to the United States following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programme, these soldiers were promised permanent residence in the United States. However, the report suggests that it is unlikely that Congress will pass the necessary legislation to fulfill this promise anytime soon. Consequently, many of the servicemen are struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, and economic problems.

The report reveals that former American colleagues of these Afghan soldiers are also concerned about the fate of “Zero Units” forces. They argue that the Biden administration is neglecting the contributions of these soldiers, who have been key assets in the United States’ war in Afghanistan.

Daniel Elkins, a former member of the U.S. Army, lamented the moral injury of the situation: “We know that there would be more of our community buried in Arlington National Cemetery today if it were not for our Afghan allies who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with us.”

Tabesh, 39, a former CIA-trained Afghan soldier, is currently suffering from economic problems, unemployment, and uncertainty. He lost a leg during a war operation and cannot afford to pay the monthly rent of $1,300. Similarly, Samir, a former captain in the Zero Units, is struggling with helplessness and despair, leading him to consider suicide.

The CIA created a clandestine counterterrorism force known as the Zero Units in the early years of its military presence in Afghanistan, recruiting members of the anti-Taliban militia to help gather intelligence and carry out covert missions against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Over time, these units became an elite strike force composed of soldiers from different branches of the Afghan army. In 2009, these units were officially merged into the National Directorate of Security Intelligence of the Afghan government, with the CIA advising them in carrying out their missions.