International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged major donors to impose sanctions on Afghanistan’s newly appointed acting defence minister over alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.
President Ashraf Ghani’s decision last month to appoint the fiercely anti-Taliban Asadullah Khalid prompted an outcry from human rights organisations which accuse him of being involved in assassinations, torture and illicit drug business while serving as governor of Ghazni and later of southern Kandahar in 2005 and 2008.
“Credible evidence of serious human rights abuses and war crimes linked to Khalid have followed him throughout his government career,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report published on Saturday.
Brad Adams, Asia Director at HRW called on donors including the United States and Canada to impose sanctions on Khalid, freeze his assets and ban him from entry.
Khalid, who barely survived a Taliban suicide attack shortly after he took over the National Directorate for Security in 2012, denies the charges and says they are politically motivated.
His appointment and that of fellow Taliban critic Amrullah Saleh as interior minister come amid growing momentum in talks between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives, who have resisted US pressure to include Ghani’s government in the negotiations.
Critics say Khalid’s appointment will only complicate peace efforts after 17 years of conflict. It has also fuelled accusations that Ghani is trying to neutralise potential opponents by bringing them onto his side ahead of the presidential election.