Grateful residents of eastern Afghanistan whose villages were freed from control by Islamic State militants have begun enlisting for service with the Afghan National Security Forces and provincial police, local authorities say.
Afghan joint forces drove IS extremists out of the Pachir Agam district in Nangarhar province about two weeks ago, and since then hundreds of men have joined the central government's security forces to help ensure that IS radicals cannot return to the area.
The local men previously resisted IS occupation, but they have now been armed by the government, according to Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial administration.
"These 500 men will be fighting within the Afghan National Security Forces framework in the next few days," Khogyani told VOA Saturday.
The recruits will be assigned to six security checkpoints in vulnerable areas of the district, which borders Pakistan. The spokesman said elements of the Afghan National Security Forces would remain in the area to assist in the transition.
A spokesman for the Nangarhar police, Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal, told VOA that villagers who deemed battle ready would be phased into the provincial police force. The recruits are asking for heavy weapons, he added, and those are expected to come from the central government's national security department.
Dozens still held captive
IS militants attacked the Pachir Agam district early last month, destroying many homes and seizing more than 70 local men as captives, authorities said. Residents say IS fighters are thought to still be holding 63 captives.
IS's arrival in Pachir Agam is the latest chapter in a quarter-century of conflict. The district was a stronghold of resistance fighters against armed forces of the Soviet Union during the 1980s and came under heavy air attack when the U.S. entered Afghanistan in pursuit of al-Qaida terrorists and the Taliban beginning in late 2001.
The district includes the cave complex known as Tora Bora, one of the last areas of Afghanistan that al-Qaida held before a civilian, non-Taliban government was restored in Kabul.