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Former Warlords Unite To Fight Taliban In Afghanistan's North

  • Frud Bezhan

Abdul Rashid Dustom (right) and Atta Mohammad Noor were fierce rivals during the bloody Afghan civil war of 1992-96

Abdul Rashid Dustom (right) and Atta Mohammad Noor were fierce rivals during the bloody Afghan civil war of 1992-96

Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful governor of Afghanistan's Balkh Province, says he has forged an alliance with the unlikeliest of candidates -- former rival warlord and First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum -- in order to combat the Taliban in the country's restive north.

Noor, speaking exclusively to RFE/RL on June 23, said the two political heavyweights had set aside old rivalries to fight against the Taliban and other militant groups active in the region.

"This alliance is meant to bring peace and security to the region and push back our enemies," said Noor.

The alliance between Noor's Jamiat-e-Islami party and Dostum's Junbish party is unprecedented, given past hostilities.

Dostum -- an ethnic Uzbek former militia leader -- and Noor -- an ethnic Tajik who has ruled Balkh for the past 12 years -- were locked in fierce battles for control of the north during the country's devastating civil war in 1992-96.

Fighting continued after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 until a power-sharing agreement was signed three years later, in which Noor was given control of Balkh.

ALSO READ: RFE/RL Interview With Atta Mohammad Noor

As violence spreads across the country's north amid a major Taliban offensive that began in April, Noor told RFE/RL that many northern provinces were in danger of being overrun.

The 50-year-old said with the two sides united, he was confident of inflicting a "powerful blow" to the militants.

Noor, a former mujahedin commander, said the two sides were "coordinating Afghan security forces in the provinces to repel enemy attacks."

The governor said the sides were working with the full support of the central government and that they were taking steps to "reinforce the alliance."

The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive in April with attacks in the provinces of Kunduz and Badakhshan, where the militants captured several districts.

Afghan security forces have managed in many areas to beat back the militants, recapturing territory lost to the Taliban.

In the latest fighting, Afghan forces on June 23 recaptured a key district close to Kunduz's provincial capital, repelling Taliban fighters who had threatened to overrun their first provincial capital since being toppled from power in 2001.

Noor said he had sent soldiers and police from Balkh to join local government forces in Kunduz.

This year's Taliban offensive marks the first fighting season in which Afghan forces are battling the insurgents without the full support of U.S.-led foreign combat troops.

Noor said Afghan forces were capable of fending off the Taliban, but said "stronger leadership" was required on the part of the central government.

He said the "weakness of the government" was partly to blame for the soaring insecurity in the north.

Noor's relations with Kabul have been tense in the past and the governor has accused Kabul of neglecting security threats in northern Afghanistan.

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to bezhanf@rferl.org

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