Afghan Biographies

Matiullah Khan, Popolzai Brig. Gen.

Name Matiullah Khan, Popolzai Brig. Gen.
Ethnic backgr. Pashtun
Date of birth
Function/Grade Ex Police Commander
History and Biodata

2. Previous Functions:
Highway Police Commander
Private Army Militia Kandak Amniante Uruzgan Warlord
Reserve Police Commander Uruzgan
Provincial Policecommander Uruzgan Oruzgan (20110808- 20150319)

3. Biodata:
Matiullah is a member of the Popalzai tribe and comes from a powerful family. He is an illiterate taxidriver and former highway patrol police commander. His uncle is former Oruzgan governor Jan Mohammed Khan, known as JMK, who has a reputation for corruption, brutality and double-dealing. He was a taxi driver when the US war began in 2001. In a few short years he became a millionaire running security for NATO convoys in his area. Earlier this month (20110800), he was appointed as the chief of police in Uruzgan province, despite numerous allegations of human rights abuses.

When the Taliban regime fell in late 2001, JMK and Matiullah turned on tribal rivals, who they accused - often falsely - of links to the Taliban. Some were murdered, others were targeted by US special forces on tip-offs from the two warlords, and others fled into the arms of the Taliban.

Matiullah emerged as a strongman in his own right after JMK was sacked as governor in 2006, when the Dutch made his removal a condition for them taking charge of the international effort in Oruzgan. Since 2008 he has grown stronger than the government of Oruzgan Province, not only supplanting its role in providing security but usurping its other functions, his rivals say, like appointing public employees and doling out government largess.

His fighters run missions with American Special Forces officers, and when Afghan officials have confronted him, he has either rebuffed them or had them removed. Matiullah is one of several semiofficial warlords who have emerged across Afghanistan in recent months, as American and NATO officers try to bolster — and sometimes even supplant — ineffective regular Afghan forces in their battle against the Taliban insurgency. .

In Matiullah’s case, American commanders appear to have set aside reports that he connives with both drug smugglers and Taliban insurgents. In Uruzgan province, both U.S. and Australian Special Forces have contracted with a private army commanded by Col. Matiullah Khan, called Kandak Amniante Uruzgan, with 2,000 armed men, to provide security services on which their bases there depend. Matiullah’s compound sits about 100 yards from the American Special Forces compound in Tirin Kot That case was reported in detail in April 2008 by two reporters for The Australian, Mark Dodd and Jeremy Kelly.

Col. Khan's security force protects NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) convoys on the main road from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt, where more than 1,000 Australian troops are based at Camp Holland, according to the The Australian in April 2008. Col. Khan gets 340,000 dollars per month – nearly 4.1 million dollars annually - for getting two convoys from Kandahar to Tarin Kowt safely each month.

His company charges each NATO cargo truck $1,200 for safe passage, or $800 for smaller ones, his aides say. His income, according to one of his aides, is $2.5 million a month, an astronomical sum in a country as impoverished as this one, which seems to be a bit exaggerated.

Khan, now police chief in Uruzgan province (20110800) , evidently got his private army from his uncle Jan Mohammad Khan, a commander who helped defeat the Taliban in Kandahar in 2001 and was then rewarded by President Karzai by being named governor of Uruzgan in 2002. The Australian Defence Force claimed to The Australian that Col. Khan is paid by the Afghan Ministry of Interior to provide security on the main highways of Uruzgan province.

The Australian military had previously refused to confirm or deny Australian payments to Col. Khan. Under an arrangement with the Ministry of the Interior, the government pays for roughly 600 of Matiullah’s 1,500 fighters, including Matiullah himself, despite the fact that the force is not under the government’s control. With his NATO millions, and the American backing, Matiullah has grown into the strongest political and economic force in the region. He estimates that his salaries support 15,000 people in this impoverished province.

He has built 70 mosques with his own money, endowed scholarships in Kabul and begun holding weekly meetings with area tribal leaders. His latest venture is a rock-crushing company that sells gravel to NATO bases. Despite his relationship to the Special Forces, Matiullah has been suspected of playing a double game with the Taliban. Asked about Matiullah earlier this year, an American military officer in Kabul admitted that Matiullah was believed to have a relationship with insurgents. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing intelligence matters. Asked again recently, the same officer said that Matiullah was suspected of drug smuggling. He provided no details. The next day, after consulting intelligence officers, the officer said Matiullah was a trusted ally. “Their assessment about him has changed,” he said. Matiullah denied any contact with either insurgents or drug smugglers. “Never,” he said.

Both Ahmed Wali Karzai and Matiullah were associates of Jan Mohammed Khan, a former governor of Oruzgan Province and Matiullah’s father-in-law. Jan Mohammad Khan was removed from Oruzgan Province at the insistence of the Dutch in 2006 because of concerns that he was close to the drug trade. He is now an adviser to President Karzai.

Matiullah Khan who also runs a militia group, has more than 3,000 armed men operating in Uruzgan, where he is in charge of the Kandahar-Uruzgan highway. He lives in the family home of Jan Muhammad Khan, a former governor of Uruzgan, who boasts of being an advisor-minister to President Karzai. Matiullah Khan told Killid in an interview: I have 648 men as part of the Ministry of Interior, but more than 3,000 men have picked up their weapons from their houses and are working with me. I get their salaries and other benefits from the foreigners convoys and each one of them is paid $240 per month.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for  assaults in the provincial capital of Tarin Kot on 20110728, which targeted the governor’s house, police headquarters and a third office used by Matiullah Khan, a powerbroker who runs a company that provides security for NATO supply convoys. (19 dead 37 wounded.)

Matiullah Khan had been killed in Kabul when he left his hotel in the night where he was with friends when a suicide bomber attacked and killed him. The incident took place around 8:15 pm local time in Qala-e-Ali Mardan area in the sixth police district of Kabul city. (20150319)

Khan has a brother, Rahim Khan Rahimullah Khan, who was arrested in 2018 by the Afghan Government, former deputy police chief of southern Uruzgan Province, who is suspected of surrendering government posts to the Taliban because the administration in Kabul was not giving him the promotion he wanted.(20180704)

Last Modified 2020-06-02
Established 2009-10-30