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KHAD is Khidmate Ettelat-e Dawlati (State Intelligence Services), is the main security agency and intelligence agency of Afghanistan, and also served as the secret police during the Soviet occupation. In 1986 it was elevated to ministry-level and renamed WAD, the Ministry of State Security, or Wazarat-e Amniat-e Dawlati - وزارت امنیت دولتی.


Background on origins of KhAD/WAD

After the coup d’état of April 1978, the newly created AGSA (in Pashto, Da Afghanistan da Gato da Saatane Adara or “Afghan Agency for Safeguarding National Interest”) assumed intelligence responsibilities. That agency was replaced by KAM (Komite-ye Amniyat-e Melli or “Committee for National Security”) in September 1979, when Hafizullah Amin ousted President Nur Mohammad Taraki. Both agencies were tasked with propaganda as well as countering opposition within the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).

The origins of KhAD can be traced back to a 1,200-strong group inside the PDPA which, after the arrival of Russian troops in December 1979, took over intelligence responsibilities from KAM. That group, comprised of parchamis, was active from December 1979 until March 1980, and was known as “the activists”. It was led by a smaller group, headed by Dr. Najibullah and Dr. Baha, who worked on designing and establishing the structure which would be known as KhAD. The Government of Babrak Karmal officially announced the creation of KhAD, with its internal structure of multiple Directorates, on 10 January 1980. In 1986, KhAD was upgraded to Ministry level and from then on was known as WAD (Wezarat-e Amniyat-e Dowlati or Ministry of State Security).

Structure of the KhAD/WAD and staffing issues

At the high point of its development, after 1982, the KhAD/WAD was sub-divided nto a number of functional Directorates. Some of these have been identified in, for example, several reports from the 1990s, but sources consulted by UNHCR have provided additional information on the existence of Directorates in the KhAD/WAD, as follows:

  • Directorate of Administration and Finance
  • Directorate of Cadre / Personnel
  • Directorate of Interrogation
  • Directorate of Intelligence and Afghan Diplomatic Missions Abroad
  • Directorate of Post and Parcels
  • Directorate for Operative Activities for Internal Control of KhAD/WAD Personnel
  • Directorate for Economy and Anti Corruption
  • Directorate for Counter Rebellion:
    • Two Sub-Directorates covering 16 provinces each
  • Directorate for Surveillance of Foreign and National Suspects
  • Directorate of the Press and Educational Institutions
  • Directorate for the Protection of the Government and its Representatives
  • Directorate of Propaganda and Counter-Propaganda
  • Directorate of Telecommunications and Decoding
  • Directorate for Activities Linked to Infiltration of Mujaheddin
  • Directorate of Logistics
  • Directorate for Agents and Informers
  • Directorate of Analysis and Reporting
  • Military KhAD/WAD
  • Police KhAD/WAD.

The last two Directorates – the Military and Police KhAD/WAD – were structures situated respectively within the Ministries of Defense and the Interior, responsible for counter-intelligence and prevention of infiltration by enemies of the regime, in particular Mujaheddin groups. They maintained their reporting lines to KhAD/WAD. At least until November 1986, when Dr. Najibullah became President, advisers from the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB) were present inside all KhAD Directorates, and no important decision was taken without their consent. Significant changes in the structure of KhAD were introduced when, after the approval of the National Reconciliation Policy in 1986, it became the WAD.

At the provincial level, each provincial department of the KhAD/WAD was headed by one officer with two or three deputies, responsible for (1) urban areas, (2) rural areas and (3) counter-rebellion. The provincial structures comprised:

Administration and Finance • Cadre / Personnel Directorate • Surveillance of foreign and national suspects • Interrogation • Post and Parcels • Operative activities for internal control of KhAD/WAD personnel • Propaganda and counter-propaganda • Economy and Anti-Corruption • Press and Educational institutions • Logistics • Counter-Rebellion (2 Sub-Directorates covering 16 Provinces each) • Protection of the government and its representatives • Telecommunication and Decoding • Activities linked to infiltration of Mujaheddin • Agents and Informer Unit • Analysis and Reporting • City District Offices • Rural District Offices. • Military and Police KhAD/WAD within the respective ministries’ structures.

While it is not possible to provide a reliable breakdown of the number of officers and non-commissioned officers, the strength of the KhAD/WAD, at the peak of its capacity, comprised a total of about 1,000 persons per province, with some provinces having more than others. Of these, about one quarter are believed to have formed the personnel of Support Directorates. In addition, the organization may have had up to 20,000 personnel at its Headquarters in Kabul, an undetermined number of agents and informers depending on location, and a further undetermined number in its military wings. In total, KhAD/WAD may have had between 15,000 and 30,000 staff at the height of its development, the figure being between 60,000 and 90,000 if agents and informers are also taken into account.

From a budgetary point of view, the KhAD and the WAD were the largest Government Departments in Afghanistan from 1982 to 1990. In terms of manpower, only the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense were larger.

Linkages with military/militia

The KhAD/WAD structures included several military components:

  • The Directorate for Counter-Rebellion had three military battalions with soldiers based mainly in Kabul City, tasked with operations including arrest and preliminary investigations;
  • Fighting forces of KhAD/WAD tasked with carrying out military operations were composed on an ad hoc basis of operative officers of different Directorates, and sent to the front lines;
  • As of 1988, the National Guard was established, headed by the fourth Deputy Minister inside the WAD structure, who had himself three deputies: for propaganda and counter-propaganda, operational and logistics affairs respectively. It had more than ten units, each composed of 500 to 700 officers and soldiers, covering ground operations and air defense. The National Guard was tasked with offensive military operations, but was not part of security and intelligence operations.

KhAD/WAD had also some level of control on the Kabul Garrison that was the main military unit in charge of the city’s security and army recruitment. The Garrison was under the overall authority of the Deputy Minister of Defense, and was managed in close consultation with senior officials from the Ministry of Interior, the Attorney General’s Office, and the KhAD/WAD.

At the same time, other armed forces or groups were supported financially by KhAD/WAD. They fought in coordination with, and maintained close relationships with the KhAD/WAD, while not being part of its structures. These included:

  • Mufreza forces (tribal and surrendered opposition militias), tasked to participate in military operations but not part of security and intelligence operations. They were known to be involved in human rights violations such as theft, burning of convoys and homes, kidnapping of civilians, extorting funds from civilians, and facilitating forced marriages. They were often undisciplined and frequently clashed with police or KhAD officers. The Mufreza militia commanders tended to resist supervision by the KhAD. As a result, it is not possible to say whether human rights violations by Mufreza were at their own initiative or were directly instructed by KhAD.
  • Generals Dostum and Amanullah Gelam Jan, who were to become important Generals in the National Army in 1988, were KhAD collaborators during the 1980s. In 1988, their militias were incorporated into the army, although they continued to entertain relations with the WAD.

Finally, it should be mentioned that KhAD/WAD officers often infiltrated Mujaheddin groups and fighting forces as commanders, tasked with supporting Afghan Government military operations by weakening the Mujaheddin capacity, exposing Mujaheddin military plans, destabilizing Mujaheddin groups and paving the way for government military action against the Mujaheddin. They were authorized to use any necessary strategies to maintain their cover and not disclose their identity as KhAD/WAD officers.

The functions and tasks of the KhAD/WAD and its much smaller precursor organizations changed significantly over time. After the National Reconciliation Policy was decided upon by President Najibullah in 1986, relationships with militias evolved. Prior to 1987, KhAD would provide allied militias with political and financial support. From 1987 onward, several opposition militia groups, responding positively to the National Reconciliation Policy, also joined forces with KhAD/WAD, forming a number of KhAD/WAD military wings. After 1989, important changes were introduced: the WAD was entrusted to coordinate and carry out military operations following the withdrawal of the Soviet troops.

Operational vs. support services

At both the national and the provincial/district level, certain Directorates were engaged in active security operations, during which many human rights violations occurred. These were above all the Directorates for Operative Activities for Internal Control of KhAD/WAD Personnel, for Counter-Rebellion, for Surveillance of Foreign and National Suspects, for the Protection of the Government and its Representatives, for Activities linked to Infiltration of Mujaheddin, the Directorate of Interrogation, as well as the Police KhAD/WAD, and the corresponding functional units at provincial and district level. The military KhAD/WAD was present throughout the armed forces’ structures down to at least battalion level, according to their functional and geographical structures, but still reported to KhAD/WAD.

However, the KhAD/WAD also included non-operational (support) Directorates/Units at the central, provincial and district levels, as follows:

  • Administration and Finance
  • Cadre / Personnel
  • Post and Parcels
  • Propaganda and counter propaganda
  • Logistics
  • Telecommunications and Decoding
  • Press and Educational Institutions
  • Agents and Informers
  • Analysis and Reporting.

Information available to UNHCR does not link these Support Directorates to human rights violations in the same manner as the operational units. The KhAD/WAD maintained 32 interrogation units, one in each of the provinces of Afghanistan. Reports of torture exist for the provincial centers in Bamian, Ghazni, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Lashkargah, and Pol-e Khomri. In addition, KhAD/WAD is reported to have practiced torture in the following locations: near Dar-ul Aman palace in Kabul; in Shashdarak area north of Kabul; in two locations, one in Bibi Mahroo in the north-east of Kabul, and the other in Wazir Akbar Khan, near the city centre; and a large building complex in central Kabul known as Sedarat, which also housed the WAD headquarters and the Special Court of National Security.

The 1986 National Reconciliation Policy had an impact on the functions and activities of the KhAD/WAD. These were considerably reduced, both inside and outside of the country. Afghans who were not members of the PDPA were appointed to key government positions, including in the KhAD/WAD, and the institution was involved in negotiations with Mujaheddin groups. The previous authority of individual KhAD/WAD operative officers was reduced, for example in carrying out arrests, as they were from then on obliged to confer with local police, shuras and the provincial and district offices of the Attorney General.