Australia training Afghan militia fighters

Oct. 29, 2010 at 10:28 PM   |   Comments

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Training militants loyal to a notorious warlord in Afghanistan will help ensure the safety of Australian troops there, the head of the military said Friday.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston told reporters the coalition needs to work with Matiullah Khan, a warlord in Oruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Herald reported Friday, based on sources, that six of Matiullah's militia were in Australia last week for a joint exercise. The newspaper also said a leaked memo showed that during an Oct. 2 meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Prime Minister Julia Gillard he was glad Australia was willing to cooperate with "warlordy types."

Houston said training the militia in Australian tactics will help ensure cooperation and the safety of Australian soldiers.

Dutch officials had refused to work with Matiullah, viewing him as corrupt, the Herald said. He is the most powerful leader in his province and has close ties to Karzai although he holds no official position.

''Our people have to engage with him," Houston said. "They have to engage with all the tribal leaders in Oruzgan, and Matiullah is one of the leaders that we need to work with. That's the reality of working in Afghanistan."

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