Sunday, February 3, 2008

Afghan Government Tries to Arrest General Dostum

In Genesis, Part 11, we saw extensive reference to General Abdul Rashid Dostum (spelled "Abdur-Rashid" in the State Department cable).

We have not yet looked at General Dostum's background, and, considering there is some breaking news about him, now might be a good time to go a little more in depth.

An article appeared today, Afghanistan: Kabul Siege Underscores Warlord Threat To Rule Of Law, which I reproduce in its entirety, with comments and background information interspersed.

Afghan police have lifted a brief siege on the Kabul home of a longtime warlord and current presidential adviser, Abdul Rashid Dostum, after he and dozens of armed men allegedly beat up and kidnapped a former campaign aide, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported.

The episode could bring further embarrassment over the government's association with the ethnic Uzbek strongman Dostum, who spent decades as a powerful northern warlord but was co-opted by President Hamid Karzai in 2005 to take a vaguely defined role as "Afghan Army chief command."

Dostum started out as a Communist union boss, until he formed a militia. When the Soviets invaded, his militia wound up fighting on the side of the Soviets against the mujahideen, and by the mid-1980's, he was in charge of a 20,000-man force that controlled Afghanistan's northern provinces.

He continued supporting President Najibullah's Soviet-backed regime after the Soviet withdrawal, but changed sides, and helped the mujahideen take Kabul in 1992.

He joined the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani for a while, then allied himself with the Islamist forces of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. By 1994, he was again besieging Kabul, this time against Rabbani's government. The cable reviewed in Genesis, Part 11 is dated shortly after these events, in January, 1995.

By 1996, when the Taliban had captured Herat and Kabul, Dostum realigned himself with Rabbani again, now battling against the Taliban.

The areas under his control were centered on Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan's fourth-largest city. According to Global Security:

It is claimed that he financed his army with profits from the opium trade. At the height of his power in 1997 - at the age of 43 - he controlled a kind of mini-state in northern Afghanistan.

After the Taliban captured his stronghold, he fled to Uzbekistan, Iran and, ultimately, Turkey, before returning in 2000. Allied with US-led forces in 2001, his was the second-largest component of the Northern Alliance, and he retook Mazar-i-Sharif from the Taliban.

He has been serving as Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan Army.

See BBC Profile: General Rashid Dostum and the previously mentioned Global Security biography.

Returning now to today's news about Dostum's current problems with the government.

Moreover, comments by Dostum allies during and after the siege highlight a smoldering debate over the influence of current and former warlords whose actions undermine the rule of law and public confidence in central authorities.

The acting head of Dostum's political party expressed surprise that police would respond by surrounding Dostum's home, since he "holds a higher position" in the government than the interior minister, Zarar Ahmad Moqbel.

I guess you can only try to arrest people who are lower in rank than you are.

Maybe that's how Bush and Clinton have gotten away with so much.

Settling A Score

Reports suggested that Dostum and around 50 armed men attacked and abducted one of his former campaign managers, Akbar Bay, and one of Bay's bodyguards late on February 2.

A more detailed account was found in the forum of Afghanistan Online, to which I now link in the sidebar:

This morning I was stuck in traffic jam for hours as police had blocked most of the roads towards Wazir Akbar Khan.

Anyways, it seems now that the police chickened out and lifted the siege of Dostum's house.

Here is my analysis :

1. Akbar Bai established the Turkman Tribe council some time ago and hence announced his separation from Jonbish and political opposition to Dostum. Dostum was pissed at him and once tried to kill him but managed to burn Akbar Bai's house and beat his people.

2. Dostum had the option and power to teach Akbar Bai a lesson even in his hometown of Jowzjan. But instead he decided to attack Akbar Bai in the middle of Kabul city under the nose of Afghan government and ISAF. One has to ask why??? Aparently he wanted to signal to the government that he is not not afraid of anything and that he has enough power to create chaos in kabul, let alone the Northeran provinces. There were reports on Afghan TV, that he fearlessly stood high up at the roof of his house and was ranting at the commander of the Afghan police who was behind his door, tell them to leave or he will kill them.

3. The police cowardly left his house and told the media that this case will be sent to the Attorney General's Office. Now let's see what will Jabar Sabit (the Attorney General) will do in pursuing this case. I think once General Dostum leaves kabul to Jawzjan, no one will be able to do anything.

4. I heard some shocking informal reports of what he actually did to Akbar Bai and his family. It seems that he entered their house by force with around 50 fully armed militiamen and beat Akbar Bai's wife and son. Then he forcefully takes Akbar Bai to his own house and orders his men to rape him, reportedly using human and non-human tools (excuse the language, this is the best i could do).

5. A tragic story, but a clever one on Dostum's part. Choosing a target and doing this in the capital, far away from his power base. Who else would now have the guts to mess with him??? Definitely not the Afghan police. or Maybe Jabar Sabit. Lets see how things unfold in this drama.

6. Another report also said that aparently Latif Pedram was together with Dostum while all this happened.


Returning to Afghanistan: Kabul Siege Underscores Warlord Threat To Rule Of Law:

More than 100 police or security officers, armed with assault rifles and machine guns, later surrounded Dostum's home in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul for several hours, while other officers took up positions on the roofs of nearby houses.

Police later lifted their siege, with Interior Ministry spokesman Zmarai Bashari saying security forces were referring the incident to prosecutors "as soon as possible" for possible legal action.

Both Bay and his bodyguard were reportedly freed and hospitalized.

The fiery Dostum's northern-based supporters have been at the heart of several violent clashes in the past year, although Dostum himself has generally maintained a low public profile.

Dostum has been accused by international groups of involvement in numerous human rights abuses dating back to Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s.

Bashari suggested to Radio Free Afghanistan that Dostum was under the influence of alcohol during his armed raid on Bay's house.

"General Dostum is still an Afghan government official, and you know that," Bashari said. "This was a criminal case and the Afghan Attorney-General's Office will follow the case with details to identify the guilty or the innocent and hand it over to the law."

In the US, it is often a little more complicated than merely arresting someone.

For example, would a US President not have to be impeached and removed from office before being arrested? What about other elected officials -- Senators and Congressman? What about appointed officials -- cabinet members, for example?

It will be interesting to see what happens when Washington's scandals, such as the Sibel Edmonds case, finally break -- what will be the exact process of bringing some of these government officials to justice?

Threat To Police

Speaking at a press conference in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, Sayyed Nourallah, the acting leader of Dostum's political faction, the National Movement (Junbesh-e Milli), expressed surprise over the standoff at Dostum's house.

"Certainly we were not expecting that from security forces -- particularly from the Interior Ministry -- to surround the house of General Dostum in Kabul," Nourallah said. "[Dostum] holds a higher position than the interior minister in the government."

A spokesman for Dostum, Mohammad Alem Sayeh, insisted there was no truth to the accusations against Dostum and warned of unrest if police tried to arrest him.

There's some truth to this warning about unrest. Dostum does still have a great many combat-experienced supporters.

Also, there is an ethnic aspect to this, as well. As another commentator on the forum explained it:

The exact situation of disintegration of Afghanistan during Najib. Today NATO and US are working to change the horse. Exactly the same thing Russian started to do. Najib did work hard do something in his last minutes of talk but all failed.

Please think of the scenario in a bigger prospect. Karzai as a head of one thug group cannot arrest another thug. This is just another step forward in the direction of disintegration. You need to celebrate or mourn the disintegration of the country on the basis of ethnicity and language.

Today the puppet thug regime publicly announces they are ready to deal and forgive all Pashtun criminals in Afghanistan including Taleban and Gulbuddin supporters in Afghanistan but they attempt to act against an Uzbek criminal.

Congratulation for such moves in the direction of disintegration. If Afghans cannot co-exist what is wrong to disintegrate?


Returning to Afghanistan: Kabul Siege Underscores Warlord Threat To Rule Of Law:

"If General Dostum is surrounded and anyone touches even one hair on Dostum's head, they must know that seven or eight northern provinces will turn against the government," Radio Free Afghanistan quoted Sayeh as saying.


In May, protests staged by his supporters against a controversial governor of the northern province of Jowzjan turned violent, leaving at least 10 people dead. Around the same time, armed Dostum supporters clashed with authorities in Faryab Province, forcing Kabul to send in troops to quell the violence. Provincial authorities in Jowzjan have accused his National Movement (Junbesh-e Milli) of rearming its supporters in the north.

In the context of Dostum's most recent scrape with authorities, the attack on Bay and his entourage, Afghan National Assembly member Shukaria Barkzay warned Radio Free Afghanistan that impunity represents one of the country's greatest challenges.

"The non-implementation of the law is one of [Afghanistan's] key problems, and this culture of immunity for any politically powerful people -- whether they have legal authority or not -- leads to their impunity," Barkzay said. He stressed that the problem extends to more than "one specific group" and cited public complaints regarding "several groups."

"Government officials are taking all these decisions about public trust, while the Afghan people want justice," Barkzay said.

As the forum commentator Khaak continues in the next comment:

Governance cannot be achieved through vulgarity. Today Karzai has filled the key government posts with his thugs in the name of Pashtuns to replace Panjshiri thugs. That is not the solution to the problems Afghanistan is facing. Today even a child in Afghanistan won't be cheated.

The solution to the problem is the introduction of a national government in the context of secularism and democracy to replace the US and NATO version of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. National figures should be put in charge of affairs.

You poor guys are busy with Dostom but you remain lip tied that the puppet regime ministers were humiliated like vulgar dogs in the parliament because of their inactions toward the tragedies Afghans are facing in this cold winter.

The article concludes with some background on General Dostum:

Political Chameleon

Dostum is a former union boss in the gas and oil sector who rose to command ethnic Uzbek fighters backing communist forces after the Soviet occupation in 1979.

But his three kaleidoscopic decades as a militia leader have been marked by many short-lived -- and frequently contradictory -- alliances.

In 1997, after unsuccessfully challenging Taliban forces in the capital, Dostum was forced to flee his stronghold around Mazar-e Sharif to live abroad. He reemerged to back the U.S.-led attacks to oust the Taliban regime in 2001, returning to the area to reclaim control of large swaths of northern Afghanistan.

Dostum placed fourth among the 18 names on the presidential ballot in October 2004 with 10 percent of the vote.

The next year, Dostum was named by the Karzai administration as its "Afghan Army chief command" in a move generally regarded as an effort to avoid friction ahead of key parliamentary and provincial elections in September 2005.

A security adviser to Karzai under the former Transitional Administration, Dostum has long wielded major influence in some northern provinces and consistently chafed at central authority out of Kabul.

1 comment:

anticant said...

And he has been [is?] an "ally" of the US?

American dealings with these Asiatic characters all too often remind me of Edward Lear's limerick:

"There was a young lady of Riga
Who went for a ride on a tiger.
They returned from the ride
With the lady inside
And a smile on the face of the tiger."

Far too many Americam 'diplomats' - such as Ms Rice - fondly imagine they are the tiger, when in fact it's the other way round.