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Afghan Report: May 23, 2003

23 May 2003, Volume 2, Number 17
By Amin Tarzi

Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, the man who a year ago was one of the most celebrated international leaders and a fashion icon, threatened to resign from his post on 18 May. Frustrated with his inability to control the power of warlords, Karzai stated in a televised speech to his country that if within two or three months the situation "regarding incomes, regarding administration, regarding other affairs that are directly linked with the destiny of the Afghan nation and with peace, stability, security, respect, and honor" does not improve, he will call a Loya Jirga and dissolve his government. Karzai also threatened to identify the "people who did not do their work and why" (see "News" section below).

Two days after delivering his speech, Karzai managed to obtain written pledges of cooperation from those governors and warlords who have thus far refused to deliver the customs revenues that they have collected to the coffers of the central administration in Kabul. The regional leaders also promised to follow and implement the laws, regulations, and legislative documents of the country and their job descriptions; not to interfere in the affairs of other provinces; to implement internal and external policies as directed by the central administration; and not to hold military and civilian posts simultaneously (see the full text of the declaration below).

On the surface, Karzai's speech is intended as a threat to the warlords -- politely referred to by the Afghan authorities as "regional leaders" or "commanders." He is signaling that the patience of the central authority is running thin. Also, it is a message to ordinary Afghans who, with the demise of the Taliban, were given the hope of a long-awaited return to normal life. The people have become increasingly disenchanted with the slow progress of reform and reconstruction, with the lack of security in their daily lives, and with the overall impression that life is not improving. Karzai warned his audience that unless the warlords stop their military adventures, the "formation of the constitution and formation of laws" would be "meaningless." He blamed renegade governors who have withheld -- according to his estimate -- "hundreds of millions of dollars" in customs revenues, for the inability of his administration to pay the salaries of its employees.

The main intended audience for Karzai's speech, however, was not the Afghan people, and not even the warlords over whom the central administration is attempting to impose its authority. Karzai's speech was, rather, an indirect plea or perhaps even an ultimatum to the foreign backers of his administration, in particular, the United States, to help him address the problems that he is, in effect, incapable of solving. If left unchallenged, Karzai hinted, these problems would undermine not only his administration but would also threaten domestic and regional peace and security. To remind his foreign allies, he ended his speech by condemning the bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, on 12 and 16 May, respectively, adding that Afghanistan is still "regrettably engaged in the campaign against terrorism."

Indeed, attacks by terrorists in Afghanistan, whether belonging to Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or newly disenchanted and politically disenfranchised groups, have increased in number and become more vicious in their target selection. In the last months, the tactics used in the terrorist attacks have changed from engaging only U.S.-led antiterror coalition forces and their allied Afghan militia, to targeting unarmed demining teams, foreign aid workers, and tourists. The new tactics seem to be designed to keep the aid workers out of Afghanistan and plunge the country into chaos -- something that would translate as a victory for the terrorists and opposition elements in Afghanistan.

Both terrorism and warlordism, in turn, are feeding Afghanistan's once again flourishing narcotics industry (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February 2003), which affords them much-needed funds. By encouraging instability and keeping international agencies out of sight, these individuals and groups retain the territory they need to cultivate poppies.

Lost in the mayhem in the south and southeastern regions of the country is the fact that Afghanistan's northern parts have become engulfed in the same factional rivalries that plagued the area in the 1990s. General Abdul Rashid Dostum's Junbish-e Melli-ye Islami party is battling former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jami'at-e Islami party in several northern provinces. A splinter group within Hizb-e Wahdat and loyal to Planning Minister Mohammad Mohaqeq is also battling Jami'at loyalists in Balkh Province. And the self-proclaimed "amir" of western Afghanistan, Herat Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan, is battling Pashtuns in his own province and in neighboring Badghis Province. Moreover, the Islmai'li Shi'ites have begun quarreling in Baghlan Province.

In the pledge obtained by Karzai from the governors, it is stated that leadership councils established in northern Afghanistan by Dostum and his rivals, the "zones" created in the northern and western parts of the country, and titles such as "Special Envoy of the Head of State" or "Amir" will have "no legal recognition and are unlawful and invalid." On paper, the pledge is a victory for Karzai and the central administration in Kabul. However, if the payoffs for getting the pledge and statements from some of the troublesome individuals are put together, the value of the agreement may only have a symbolic value. In the end, it may actually damage the long-term state and nation-building process in Afghanistan.

Ismail Khan has already stated that he will retain, in contradiction to his pledge, his position as the military commander of Herat. Furthermore, Karzai has appointed Dostum as his special adviser on security and military affairs, with effective control over security affairs in the northern Afghan provinces of Balkh, Jowzjan, Sar-e Pol, Samangan, and Faryab (see news section below). This, in fact, is what Dostum has always been demanding -- ultimate control over that northern region of the country. In addition, Dostum is to dismantle Army Corps No. 7, commanded by his Jami'at rival, General Ata Mohammad. In turn, Ata Mohammad has stated that he will not relinquish his command of the Army Corps No. 7, effectively challenging Dostum's job description.

Nevertheless, with the exception of Ismail Khan's rebelliousness and capitulating to Dostum's demands, which could been seen as a temporary measure until the central government is able to tackle him and/or as a counterbalance to Jami'at's overwhelming representation in the Afghan Transitional Administration, Karzai has obtained a good working document from the renegade governors/warlords. However, implementation of this agreement needs to be backed by force -- something that Karzai does not have.

Only the Afghan Transitional Administration's foreign backers, led by the United States, can give Karzai the power he needs to steer the country into the path of normalcy and avoid falling back into chaos. Time is running out for Karzai's administration and, as such, for Afghanistan. In October, a Loya Jirga is to be convened to approve the new Afghan Constitution (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 10 April 2003) and in 2004 general elections are scheduled to be held. With the current wretched state of security in the country, as Karzai has correctly noted, those issues will effectively be void. What Afghanistan urgently needs is an international security arrangement to ensure that terrorists as well as domestic and international spoilers are kept at bay throughout the entire country and to also allow ordinary Afghans to voice their opinions in vital decisions for the country, without intimidation by this or that warlord -- or whatever titles they are afforded these days.

Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has called for a meeting on 20 May of the governors of 12 provinces that are refusing to send customs revenues to the central government, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 19 May. Karzai's office on 18 May declined to name those who were summoned to Kabul, but last week a spokesman for Karzai's office told RFE/RL that Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan is one of them. Karzai has expressed dissatisfaction over the refusal by some provincial governors to hand over collected customs revenues to the central government. Some of those governors are believed to be using the funds to finance their private militias. Karzai has sacked regional officials in the past, although some have challenged his authority and have refused to obey his decrees ousting them. (Amin Tarzi)

Chairman Karzai vowed to resign in three months if his Transitional Administration is unable to bring outlying provinces under the control of the central government, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 18 May. During a speech before Afghanistan's Supreme Court on 18 May, Karzai said that in the event of his resignation he would name specific individuals within Afghanistan who obstructed the administration's success and will call for an emergency Loya Jirga to address the collapse of the government. (Kimberly McCloud)

In his televised address, Karzai said that Afghanistan and other Islamic countries are still engaged in the war against terrorism, Afghanistan Television reported. Karzai noted that the 12 May suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia occurred in "a place toward which we turn our faces fives times a day to offer our prayers," and condemned the 16 May terrorist attacks in Morocco. He said those responsible for the attacks are "hypocrites" and "enemies of Islam." Karzai added that it is the duty of "every faithful and brave Muslim" to fight terrorism. (Amin Tarzi)

During a meeting in Kabul on 20 May with Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai, 12 provincial governors signed an agreement pledging to deliver millions of dollars of customs revenues owed to the central government, RFE/RL reported. Kabul authorities complain that the 12 provinces, most notably western Afghanistan's Herat Province under Governor Ismail Khan, have been withholding their customs revenues from the central government. Afghan Reconstruction Minister Mohammad Amin Farhang told RFE/RL that the governors who "refuse to hand over customs revenues...weaken the government." (Amin Tarzi)

The lack of funds in the central government's coffers has prompted some ministers in Karzai's administration to walk out of cabinet meetings, "The New York Times" reported on 21 May. Unidentified government officials have said if the financial problems facing the Afghan Transitional Administration are not solved, street demonstrations will "very soon" turn to "armed conflict." An unidentified Western diplomat in Kabul told the New York daily that "it is crunch time politically" for Karzai's administration. Paul Burton, an expert with Jane's Information Group, told RFE/RL on 20 May that "Karzai is not a well-respected leader" at home, "but is important in terms of putting forward American policy in the region." Burton added that Karzai's plea to resign might be "indicative of his desire to remind" the United States of its obligations and an effort to secure more aid. (Amin Tarzi)

The U.S. presidential envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is to meet with some of the governors who are in Kabul to meet with Karzai, Radio Afghanistan reported on 20 May. The names of those governors who are to meet with Khalilzad have not been released, according to the report. (Amin Tarzi)

In a 13-point declaration signed on 20 May by Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai and 10 provincial governors, one deputy governor, and two military commanders, the provincial authorities agreed to "follow and implement the laws, regulations, and legislative documents of the country and their job descriptions," Radio Afghanistan reported on 20 May. The provincial authorities also pledged not to interfere in the affairs of other provinces and implement internal and external polices as directed by the central administration. The provincial authorities also agreed not to hold military and civilian posts simultaneously. Article 11 of the declaration abolished special titles which some of the regional leaders had adopted for themselves, such "special envoy of the head of state" or "amir" adopted by Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum and Herat Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan, respectively. (Amin Tarzi)

1. Since implementation of laws and regulations of the government is an integral part of the duty of all officials, particularly the high-ranking government officials, therefore, all officials of military and civilian departments in the provinces, governors in particular, are responsible to follow and implement the laws, regulations, and legislative documents of the country and their job descriptions.

2. It is obvious that provincial revenues are not transferred to the government revenue account as required by law. Therefore, in order to better organize the financial affairs of the country, as provided by the enforced laws, all officials, particularly the provincial governors, are liable to transfer the revenues they generate to a government revenues account through finance departments and relevant banks as required by law. They should seriously avoid using the revenues other than what is allocated for them. They should regularly transfer all the revenues to the capital.

3. Provincial governors cannot influence or interfere in the affairs of other provinces.

4. Provincial governors are responsible for making appointments in accordance with the approved structure and enforced laws and regulations. No military or civilian official can hold two government posts at the same time.

5. Provincial governors are responsible for following and implementing the internal and foreign policy of the government.

6. Provincial governors, security commanders, and commanders of army corps, divisions, other military units and companies, and civilian officials are not allowed to go abroad or negotiate and sign agreements [with foreign countries] without the permission of the government.

7. The units and companies of the armed forces are not permitted to recruit personnel contrary to the approved structure and regulations on military commiserates and without a formal request for additional personnel.

8. Commanders of army corps and other independent [military] units and companies cannot carry out military operations without the permission of the National Defense Ministry and without consultation with the governors.

9. Commanders of army corps and other military units and companies cannot interfere in civilian affairs.

10. It seems that a number of officials in frontier provinces travel out of the country in vehicles with political and foreign number plates and road passes without the permission of the center [capital]. All governors and security commanders of the provinces are responsible for invalidating all the road passes that have already been distributed.

11. The "Leadership Council of the Northern Zone," the "Supreme Economic Council of the Northern Zone," and titles such as the "Special Envoy of the Head of State," the "Amir" and others, and institutions, which are not defined in the administrative system and enforced laws of the country, have no legal recognition and are unlawful and invalid.

12. The Finance Ministry, General Department of Da Afghanistan Bank [Afghanistan's central bank], and other ministries and government departments, which have economic and productive branches in the provinces, are duty bound to take into account the principles of professionalism, competence, expertise, and honesty when they appoint chief accounting officers, heads of customs, heads of banks, and other officials of economic and productive institutions in the provinces.

13. In order to ensure the implementation of the above-mentioned instructions, working groups, comprising authorized professional and experienced representatives who will be appointed at the recommendation of the head of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan [this is the official name used by the Afghan Transitional Administration], should be dispatched to the provinces.

[Signed] Hamed Karzai, head of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan.

Similarly, the esteemed governors of the said provinces [no province has been mentioned anywhere in the resolution] and military and civilian officials have issued a statement expressing readiness to fully implement the resolution of the Security Council. The statement says: We, the military and civilian officials and governors of the frontier provinces, have studied the contents of resolution No 1213, dated 30/2/1382 [20 May 2003], of the Security Council of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, which has been approved by his excellency the head of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan. We completely agree with the contents of the resolution and will respect and fully implement the resolution in our areas of responsibilities.

[Signed] Esteemed General Mohammad Ismail, Governor of Herat Province; esteemed General Abdul Rashid Dostum, deputy defense minister; esteemed Lieutenant General Ata Mohammad, commander of Army Corps No. 7; esteemed Lieutenant General Gol Agha [Sherzai], governor of Kandahar Province; esteemed Haji Din Mohammad, governor of Nangarhar Province; esteemed Abdol Latif Ebrahimi, governor of Konduz Province; esteemed [Sayyed Mohammad Ali] Jalali, governor of Paktika Province; esteemed Mohammad [Abdul] Karim Barawi, governor of Nimroz Province; esteemed Abdol Hayy Ne'mati, governor of Farah Province; esteemed Mohammad Eshaq Rahgozar, governor of Balkh Province; esteemed Sayd Ekramoddin Masumi, governor of Takhar Province; esteemed [Abdul Hakim] Taniwal, governor of Khost Province; and esteemed Afzali, deputy governor of Badakhshan Province. (Amin Tarzi)

In a decree issued on 21 May, Hamid Karzai appointed Deputy Defense Minister General Abdul Rashid Dostum as a "special adviser on security and military affairs," Bakhtar news agency reported. Dostum's job description is to advise and present recommendation to the Afghan Transitional Administration on security affairs of the northern Afghan provinces of Balkh, Jowzjan, Sar-e Pol, Samangan, and Faryab. Dostum is also requested to provide Karzai recommendations on general security and military affairs which, after Karzai's approval, "should be implemented by the relevant ministries and departments." Lastly, Dostum is to assist Karzai and the Defense Ministry on "downsizing and ultimate dismantling of army corps in the country, with particular reference to Army Corps Nos. 7 and 8." This decree is a victory for Dostum and a defeat for Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim and his party, Jami'at-e Islami. Fahim's ally in the north, General Ata Mohammad, who commanded Army Corps No. 7, has been engaged in a long battle for the control of northern provinces that, according to the new decree, have effectively been placed under Dostum's control. (Amin Tarzi)

General Ata Mohammad, commander of the Army Corps No. 7, resigned from his post as "first deputy head of the Leadership Council of the northern provinces of Afghanistan," Balkh Television reported on 20 May. In his resignation letter to Karzai, Ata Mohammad said that "the Operational Command of the North, the Council for the Control and Management of the North, and the Leadership Council of the North and so forth are not only nonsense in our country but are also destabilizing the situation in the North." Ata Mohammad said that he would retain his post as the commander of Army Corps No. 7. According to Article 11 of the 20 May Declaration (see above), the "Leadership Council of the Northern Provinces" was abolished, thus making Ata Mohammad's resignation only a symbolic act of saving face. The fact that Ata Mohammad has decided to retain his command of Army Corps No. 7, a unit that is to be dismantled by Dostum, would place the two rivals in further conflict. (Amin Tarzi)

Gubernatorial changes have been made following a request by the Interior Ministry that was approved by the Afghan Transitional Administration, Radio Afghanistan reported on 14 May. Parwan Governor Mohammad Aman Samimi has been appointed governor of Badakhshan Province, replacing Sayyed Mohammad Amin Tareq, who was appointed as an adviser to the Interior Ministry. Zarar Ahmad has been appointed as the new governor of Parwan Province. The report said only that the reshuffling was made to "improve matters." Samimi did not sign the 20 May declaration. His deputy represented Badakhshan Province. (Amin Tarzi)

Six militiamen loyal to the Jamiat-e Islami party were killed and 10 others were wounded on 17 and 18 May when forces loyal to Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum's Junbish-e Islami party attacked and captured the village of Gosfandi in northern Afghanistan's Sar-e Pol Province, Hindukosh news agency reported. General Sabur, chief of staff of Army Corps No. 7 in Mazar-e Sharif, said Mawlawi Zarif, a Junbish-e Islami commander, captured Gosfandi after a two-day battle. Sabur said Junbish-e Islami militia members looted the village and forcibly expelled some 150 families loyal to Karim, a Jami'at-e Islami commander. Dostum's deputy, General Abdul Majid Rozi, said "residents" of Gosfandi took control of the village "not because of the eight or nine months of clashes," but because people could no longer bear Karim's rule. Three people were killed in Gosfandi on 5 March in fighting between the two rival parties (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 14 March 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Zalmay Yunosi, who is Jami'at-e Islami Army Corps No. 7 commander General Ata Mohammad's deputy adviser for political affairs, said on 18 May that Ata Mohammad and his rival Dostum were summoned to Kabul after the 17-18 May clash, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported. (Amin Tarzi)

"Anis" on 17 May criticized both Ata Mohammad and Dostum for failing to end their ongoing dispute, which has led to many armed clashes in northern Afghanistan. The Kabul daily also criticized the Afghan Transitional Administration for its failure to take steps to "permanently resolve these feuds through negotiations," noting that both men are official representatives of the Kabul administration. The commentary called on the Transitional Administration to thoroughly investigate the root causes of regional disputes and to take action to end the use of force. (Amin Tarzi)

Mohammad Farid, a member of Mazar-e Sharif police department who also served the UN as its chief adviser for security in the city, was killed by militia members on 16 May, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) announced on 18 May. UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said Farid was killed by militia members loyal either to Jamiat or to a branch of Hizb-e Wahdat loyal to Planning Minister Mohammad Mohaqeq while he was investigating recent clashes between the two sides. UNAMA said one Wahdat member and one from Jamiat have been taken into custody. The Jami'at, Wahdat, and Junbish parties were originally part of the National Front (Northern Alliance). However, with the fall of Kabul in December 2001, Jami'at took control of most of the powerful ministries in the transitional government and violated the Bonn Agreement by stationing its forces in Kabul. It also attempted to extend its influence in other parts of the country. This has led to factional fighting between the former allies. (Amin Tarzi)

Two guards working for the United Nations and three other people were killed on 18 May in Mazar-e Sharif in fighting between the Wahdat and Jamiat parties, Pakistan's "The News International" reported. The newspaper reported that an unidentified UN source said the guards were killed on their way to a UN guesthouse. UNAMA spokesman De Almeida e Silva on 18 May denied reports that two UN employees were killed. (Amin Tarzi)

Armed clashes occurred in the Doshi District of northern Afghanistan's Baghlan Province on 18 May between followers of Sayyed Mansur Naderi, a leader of Isma'ili Shi'ites in the region, and residents of the area who are Isma'ilis but do not recognize Naderi's leadership, the Hindukosh news agency reported on 20 May. It is possible that Sayyed Daud, a nephew of Naderi's who has been in the region for the past two months, might be responsible for the friction in the Isma'ili community in Baghlan. According to the report, Naderi angered some Isma'ilis by disobeying Sadr al-Din Aga Khan, the leader of the global Isma'ili community. Naderi was allied with current Deputy Defense Minister Abdul Rashid Dostum during the Afghan civil war and the rule of the Taliban. (Amin Tarzi)

The "Strategic Survey 2002/2003" published by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) on 13 May said that, "with warlords back in the driving seat and a vibrant opium economy," the situation in Afghanistan is very insecure, Reuters reported. The report said that 18 months after the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan continues to be beset by ethnic inequity, weak central government, and warlordism. "This unfinished business...could put the coalition in the position of defending a narrowly based and unpopular regime against widespread hostility or opposition," it commented. The IISS said U.S. officials appear to believe "that warlord rule" is "better than anarchy," and suggested unless security and central governmental control is extended throughout Afghanistan, the country could be headed for total anarchy. (Amin Tarzi and Tanya Goudsouzian)

Jonathan Stevenson, editor of the IISS "Strategic Survey 2002/2003," told RFE/RL that the primary concern in Afghanistan is finding a way to strengthen Hamid Karzai's Afghan Transitional Administration. He stressed that the effort should particularly ensure that Pashtuns are "adequately knit into the political fabric of Afghanistan so that they are less prone to becoming radicalized, as they were by the Taliban." Stevenson named outside actors attempting to gain an undue amount of influence in Afghanistan, including "Iran and even Russia," and some of Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbors. But he highlighted such maneuvering by Pakistan, "or at least some elements in the Pakistani government," as another security threat posed to Afghanistan. Stevenson said the overarching point made in the IISS report is that "there is still a lot of work" that needs to be done in the whole of Afghanistan "to make sure that it is stable." (Amin Tarzi)

18 May 1960 -- Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Na'im protests to Pakistan and the United States the violation of Afghan airspace by a U.S. U-2 spy plane.

22 May 1966 -- Afghan Parliament passes a resolution asking government to take action against "Khalq" newspaper for not following the values of the 1964 constitution.

19 May 1993 -- Jami'at-e Islami strongman and Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Mas'ud announces his retirement.

Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan" by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997); "Sueddeutsche Zeitung."