Dos­tum unites friends, foes in anti-Tale­ban fight

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

As the Tale­ban ex­pand into his old stomp­ing grounds in north­ern Afghanistan, for­mer war­lord Gen­eral Ab­dul Rashid Dos­tum - who boasts of hav­ing a PhD in killing mil­i­tants - is gal­vanis­ing le­gions of de­vout fol­low­ers and erst­while foes for bat­tle. The fear­some Uzbek gen­eral, who holds no for­mal mil­i­tary post, re­cently launched an of­fen­sive with loud, bel­li­cose decla­ma­tions against the Tale­ban, who are making sur­pris­ing in­roads into Faryab prov­ince as the in­sur­gency’s cen­tre of grav­ity shifts north from its southern strongholds.

But the much-hyped cam­paign, which saw the vice pres­i­dent in mil­i­tary uni­form tour­ing the front­lines in a tank with his two sons, failed to stem the in­sur­gent ad­vance as the Tale­ban came close to over­run­ning the provin­cial cap­i­tal and be­sieged ma­jor dis­tricts. In a des­per­ate ef­fort to de­fend his home ter­ri­tory, he is ac­ti­vat­ing pri­vate anti-Tale­ban mili­tias in a risky gam­bit now com­mon­place across the em­bat­tled north. More sig­nif­i­cantly, the bat­tle-hard­ened gen­eral, who has re­peat­edly switched loy­al­ties over 40 years of con­flict, is join­ing forces with a long­time ri­val in an un­prece­dented al­liance.

Uzbek mili­ti­a­men loyal to his Jun­bish-eMilli party are fight­ing along­side and shar­ing weapons and in­tel­li­gence with Jamiat-e Is­lami, the Ta­jik-dom­i­nated party of the other main north­ern strong­man - Atta Mo­ham­mad Noor, the pow­er­ful gov­er­nor of Balkh prov­ince. The union of Jun­bish and Jamiat brings to­gether large bands of armed men who share a bit­ter history of ri­valry and clashes, a po­ten­tial mas­ter stroke in the game of fac­tional Afghan pol­i­tics that of­fers the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion new hope of van­quish­ing the as­cen­dant Tale­ban.

“Gen­eral Dos­tum is not an en­gi­neer, Gen­eral Dos­tum is not a doc­tor, Gen­eral Dos­tum has a PhD in elim­i­nat­ing the Tale­ban,” the ex-war­lord said about him­self ear­lier this year in com­ments cited in the lo­cal me­dia. “I will bring the Tale­ban to its knees.” The tac­ti­cal al­liance, whether or not long-last­ing, is al­ready hav­ing a vis­i­ble im­pact on the ground. When the Tale­ban at­tempted to over­run provin­cial cap­i­tal Maimana on the night of Oct 4 em­bold­ened by their au­da­cious if brief cap­ture of neigh­bour­ing Kun­duz city - the co­or­di­na­tion be­tween mili­ti­a­men from both sides in part helped re­pel the in­sur­gents. “Be­fore this they fought each other, hurt each other. The re­sult was zero,” said Hafizul­lah Fe­trat, the lo­cal head of the Afghan In­de­pen­dent Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion. “Their unity has re­duced hu­man rights abuses. It gives peo­ple hope as they over­come past ri­val­ries to fight a com­mon enemy that is stronger than ever be­fore.”

‘Peo­ple Wor­ship Him’

Dos­tum, who has a cat­a­logue of war crimes at­tached to his name, is de­i­fied as a hero in Faryab, where the streets are fes­tooned with life-size posters of the mus­ta­chioed gen­eral. “Many of those posters were taken down on the night the Tale­ban raided Maimana,” a lo­cal res­i­dent told AFP, as peo­ple has­tened to hide or erase any­thing that could at­tract the wrath of in­sur­gents who re­cently pil­lo­ried Dos­tum as a “poor im­be­cile gen­eral”. “But peo­ple have faith that Dos­tum will save our en­dan­gered land. Or­di­nary peo­ple are sell­ing their cat­tle to buy weapons to fight for him.” — AFP

Eth­nic Uzbek war­lord Ab­dul Rashid Dos­tum looks on dur­ing an in­ter­view with an Agence France Presse cor­re­spon­dent in Kabul. — AFP

MAIMANA, Afghanistan:

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