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Afghan Report: April 14, 2004

14 April 2004, Volume 3, Number 15

"RFE/RL Afghanistan Report" will appear again on 28 April.
By Ron Synovitz

The governor of Afghanistan's northwestern Faryab Province, Enayatullah Enayat, says fighting continued for a third day today between the private army of a powerful northern warlord and a militia force that is backed by the central government.

General Abdul Rashid Dostum's forces have been clashing in Faryab Province with troops of government-appointed military commander General Mohammad Hashim Habibi since the night of 6 April.

A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, General Mohammad Zaher Azimi, told RFE/RL that the deployment of about 750 soldiers from the Afghan National Army today will demonstrate the authority of the central government and bring security to the province.

"The Defense Ministry has decided to send in a team to investigate how the clashes started, who it was started by and why it all happened. Also, a battalion of the Afghan National Army is being sent to Faryab to show the presence of the central government and to bring security," Azimi said.

Several truckloads of National Army soldiers -- armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades -- were reported at Kabul's military airport today while a U.S. military transport plane was standing by.

Afghan Transitional Chairman Hamid Karzai's government has defended Governor Anayat as its legitimate representative in Faryab. Karzai's spokesman, Jawed Ludin, has warned that if the government investigation determines Dostum has acted against Anayat, it would be deemed "an unlawful act."

Ludin explained that General Dostum is an adviser to Karzai. But he said that does not give Dostum the right to deploy his private militia forces or get involved in any "military operational issues."

Anayat said the fighting today took place near the provincial capital of Maimana in the districts of Shirin Tagab and Bilchiragh. Yesterday, Dostum's militia forces briefly took control of an area called Joma Bazar near Maymana. But Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said today that the central government has regained control of that area.

"From the region of Joma Bazar yesterday, we received some reports that some militia forces have taken this region away from the control of the central government. Today, Joma Bazar is under the control of the government again and the militia forces that came in have left or no longer have influence in that area. As the Faryab governor said this morning, the shops are open and only schools are closed," the interior minister said.

The clashes in Faryab are the latest to demonstrate the difficulties faced by Karzai as the Afghan central government attempts to extend its authority into provinces that are controlled by warlords and their militia fighters.

As Afghanistan prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections in September, the central government has been trying to push ahead on several key security sector reforms -- including expansion of the Afghan National Army into tense provincial regions and efforts to disarm and demobilize private militia factions, including those of Dostum.

The latest UN statement on the progress of demobilization singles out Dostum by name as trying to delay the process.

Indeed, U.S. and UN officials have stressed that the power struggle between regional warlords and the central government is one of Afghanistan's biggest security problems ahead of autumn elections. Analysts are predicting more clashes between government troops and those militia factions whose leaders are unwilling to give up either the land they have seized or their weaponry.

There are conflicting claims about the cause of the fighting in Faryab Province. Governor Anayat told RFE/RL that Dostum's forces attacked the central government militia force from positions east of Faryab.

"Unfortunately, there have been rumors during the past 15 to 20 days that, from the direction of Shebergan and Sar-e Pul [to the east], some armed people want to come toward Faryab and start some military operations. We have informed the central government. But unfortunately, these rumors have developed into an actual military operation. They actually attacked Faryab. And the main reason for this is for them to show their strength from the direction of Shebergan and [to pressure those] in Faryab Province who are obeying the central government," Anayat said.

But General Dostum's representative in Kabul, Akhbar Bai, told RFE/RL that the fighting in Faryab is the result of a popular uprising there against the central government. He claimed that Karzai's cabinet is conducting a "secret game" in order to discredit figures like Dostum ahead of the elections.

"The people of Faryab have started a public uprising. The secret game going on is now open and 100,000 to 200,000 people of Faryab -- with the help of the police of Faryab -- have security in their hands. This uprising is from the people of Faryab, but there are other plans -- sabotage -- from the central government. They want to show the international community that these public figures are warlords. For the peace and security of Afghanistan, we demand that the central government stop this interference," said the spokesman.

When asked to clarify what he meant by "sabotage," Dostum's spokesman reiterated his allegation that the central government is behind a disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting regional faction leaders like Dostum.

"The sabotage is that the central government, because of the upcoming elections and in order to regain power in Faryab, are making some figures appear as warlords who are armed. And they give them a bad name. They want to show the international community that the main problem in Afghanistan is these figures," he said.

The spokesman said Dostum's political faction of the former Northern Alliance, known as Junbish-e Milli, will not interfere in the developments in Faryab Province. But he warned that there would be further uprisings against the central government if the clashes continue.

"Junbish-e Milli will have no interference and about 2 million people of Faryab will take charge of the province, and they will choose their own governor and their own commander without any interference by Junbish," he said.

Although Dostum remains an adviser to Karzai, his forces have been involved in several battles for territory in northern Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001. Dostum also unsuccessfully opposed Karzai's bid for a strong presidency during the Constitutional Loya Jirga in December and January.

Anayat alleges that Dostum launched the recent assault in Faryab after Kabul turned down his demand to be appointed defense minister or army chief of staff.

Jalali said the 750 troops of the Afghan National Army will arrive in Faryab later today. The Afghan National Army has been trained by forces of the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition and has been working closely with U.S. troops in a spring offensive against the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

About 1,500 troops from the National Army were deployed to the western city of Herat in March after the militia of Herat Governor Ismail Khan overran the garrison of a Defense Ministry militia whose commander was appointed by Karzai. U.S. military advisers are now positioned with those National Army forces in Herat.

Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry has said that the death last month of Ismail Khan's son, Civil Aviation Minister Mirwais Sadeq, was the result of factional fighting -- and not an assassination as initially claimed by Ismail Khan's spokesman.

Fighting began in Faryab Province on 6 April when troops loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum reportedly crossed into the province from neighboring Jowzjan Province, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 7 April. Faryab Governor Qazi Enayatullah Enayat cited "rumors" that Faryab was under threat of attack for "about 15-20 days," adding, "We have already informed the central government, but unfortunately these rumors since last night [6 April] have actually become a military operation." Enayat said his province came under attack because it is loyal to the central government. Dostum, who officially holds the title of special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, is the head of his own party, Junbish-e Melli, and commands his own military force in northern Afghanistan. (Amin Tarzi)

Mohammad Alam Rasekh, a cabinet-level ministerial adviser in the Afghan Transitional Administration, told Radio Free Afghanistan on 7 April that the fighting in Faryab Province is the result of a personal rivalry between General Dostum and General Mohammad Hashem Habibi, the commander of provincial military forces there. Rasekh claimed the fighting has no broader political implications. Observers from the region indicated that erstwhile allies Generals Dostum and Habibi had a falling out over finances, the report added. Dostum's forces have been involved in a number of clashes with rival commanders since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, prompting Transitional Administration Chairman Karzai to appoint Dostum as an adviser and recall him to Kabul. Dostum ignored those orders, however, and repositioned himself in his stronghold in Jowzjan Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May and 5 June 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zaher Azimi told Radio Free Afghanistan on 8 April that his ministry is dispatching an Afghan National Army battalion to quell fighting in Faryab Province and assert the central government's presence there. Azimi said a Defense Ministry delegation will travel to Faryab to investigate the circumstances that led to fighting between Generals Dostum and Habibi. Azimi said the Defense Ministry appointed Habibi to command the military forces in Faryab. No coalition forces have been involved in the crisis in Faryab, Azimi added. Troops from the nascent Afghan National Army are already stretched thin, with deployments in the western Herat Province in March to help quell a clash between a military commander and the governor there (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 March and 1 April 204). (Amin Tarzi)

Faryab's chief of security, Homayun 'Ayni, told Radio Free Afghanistan on 8 April that civilians are fleeing western Faryab, although fighting has subsided in the region. The city of Maymana, the provincial capital, is safe, 'Ayni added. One day earlier, on 7 April, when Dostum's militia had reportedly overrun Joma Bazar around 20 kilometers from Maymana, 'Ayni was quoted by Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press as saying, "There is a lot of panic in Maymana. Residents are leaving the city." Echoing statements from Governor Enayatullah (see above), 'Ayni told Radio Free Afghanistan, "We obey the central government, but our friends from Sheberghan [Dostum's headquarters] don't like this [policy] and want us to obey them." A spokesman for Dostum's Junbish-e Melli party told Radio Free Afghanistan on 8 April that he has no information about the situation in Faryab and that his party's militia has neither taken any action there nor will it. (Amin Tarzi)

Maymana, the capital of Faryab Province, was overrun on 8 April by forces loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum, international news agencies reported. Faryab Governor Qazi Enayatullah Enayat told the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) from an undisclosed location in the province that while he considers himself the "legitimate governor" of Faryab, he left Maymana "to avoid bloodshed." Enayat said that he does not have any information about casualties in the city. RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 9 April that there were no casualties in the city and the situation was calm. "Some 200 soldiers of [the Afghan] National Army have arrived at Maymana airport. The government has told me that more soldiers would be sent the next day. I hope that the rule of law will be restored in Maymana tomorrow [9 April]," Enayat told AIP. (Amin Tarzi)

Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali on 8 April accused General Dostum of misusing the Afghan National Army by mobilizing troops from Jowzjan Province, which he said was against the Afghan Constitution, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Jalali added that because the militia loyal to Dostum entered Maymana, Governor Enayat left the city. Forces under the command of General Mohammad Hashem Habibi, commander of Faryab's provincial military, have also left Maymana, Jalali added. Some 750 Afghan National Army troops are currently stationed in Maymana airport and the national police will be joining them soon to keep order and support Governor Enayat, Jalali said. Dostum, who officially holds the title of special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, is the head of his own party, Junbish-e Melli, and his own military force in northern Afghanistan, and has advocated autonomy in the region under the pretext of federalism. (Amin Tarzi)

In a statement issued on 8 April, the National Security Council of Afghanistan expressed its concern over the incidents in Faryab, Afghanistan Television reported. "The Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan hereby orders all the armed men who have entered the city from other provinces or from districts around Maymana and disrupted leave the city and return to their own regions immediately," the statement added. Whereas Interior Minister Jalali has directly blamed Dostum for the crisis in Faryab, the National Security Council statement does not identify any wrongdoer by name. Jalali also said that the governor of Sar-e Pul Province, south of Faryab, has also left his post as Dostum is trying to "stamp his authority on the region," "The New York Times" reported on 9 April. To curb Dostum's ambitions of autonomy in northern Afghanistan, Karzai appointed him as his adviser and recalled him to Kabul, but Dostum ignored those orders and repositioned himself in his stronghold in Jowzjan Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May and 5 June 2003). The current crisis marks the "first time that a governor appointed by the central government has been forced from power by an armed faction, and will be a test of Mr. Karzai and his government's ability to reassert control," the New York daily commented. (Amin Tarzi)

In an interview with the BBC's Dari service on 8 April, General Dostum accused Faryab Governor Enayat of creating a division between Hamid Karzai and northern Afghanistan. While Karzai himself is not involved in creating the current crisis, Interior Minister Jalali and Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim are involved in creating problems in the northern parts of the country, Dostum said. Dostum accused Faryab military commander General Habibi of having links with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. (Amin Tarzi)

General Abdul Rashid Dostum denied on 8 April that militiamen loyal to his Junbish-e Melli party were responsible for the recent crisis in Faryab Province (see above), Jowzjan Aina television reported. According to Dostum, participants in a spontaneous public uprising on 8 April demanded the dismissals of Faryab Governor Enayatullah Enayat and the province's military commander, General Mohammad Hashem Habibi. Dostum accused the two men of being involved in the "heroin and poppy business" and of carrying out "some ominous activities [and] creating tension in the province." Dostum, who officially holds the title of special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, said he has told the Afghan leader to prevent the activities of individuals such as Enayat and Habibi, and to "stop sending inexperienced and self-interested officials" to the province. (Amin Tarzi)

Also on 8 April, Dostum dismissed accusations by some Afghan officials that he or his party was involved in inciting the crisis that began on 6 April and resulted in Enayat's and Habibi's ousters, Jowzjan Aina television reported. Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali on 8 April accused Dostum of misusing the Afghan National Army by mobilizing troops from Jowzjan Province, which he said represents an infringement of the Afghan Constitution (see above). Dostum called the accusations "inaccurate propaganda [that] cannot have any other aims." Jalali and Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim are involved in the creation of problems in northern parts of the country, Dostum charged on 8 April, accusing Habibi of having ties to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. On 10 April, Deputy Defense Minister Rahim Wardak said, "A lot of these warlords, before 11 September [2001], did not exist or had no power," according to the "Los Angeles Times" of 11 April. "They were created by the United States after [11 September 2001], and it is their responsibility to deal with them." Wardak added, "He, Dostum, will get tamed.... All the shrews get tamed eventually." (Amin Tarzi)

Former Planning Minister Mohammad Mohaqeq said on 10 April that interference by coalition forces and the international community in the Faryab crisis is detrimental to the Afghan people, the Kabul-based daily "Erada" reported on 11 April. Mohaqeq reportedly said Dostum has played a significant role in fighting terrorism, adding that "slapping" him "is an action that would hurt a thousand faces." Mohaqeq is a presidential candidate who heads a faction of the Hizb-e Wahdat, which is based in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif. In March, Karzai reportedly dismissed Mohaqeq from his post as planning minister (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 March 2004). Mohaqeq and Dostum fought each other prior to the collapse of the communist regime in Kabul in 1992, but since then they have allied against the Taliban and at times against the Jamiat-e Islami-dominated mujahedin rule in Kabul. (Amin Tarzi)

A supporter of Dostum's Junbish-e Melli was killed in an apparent attack by Jamiat-e Islami supporters in the Kod-e Barq District of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif on 10 April, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported the next day. That and other reports also suggested that three Dostum supporters have been abducted. A house belonging to Dostum was plundered in the attack, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 11 April. Dostum's forces have been involved in a number of clashes with rival commanders, mainly from the Jamiat-e Islami party, since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May and 5 June 2003). It was not immediately clear whether the 10 April incident was related to the crisis in Faryab Province (see above). (Amin Tarzi)

Ousted Faryab Governor Enayatullah Enayat arrived in the Afghan capital on 11 April, AIP reported (see above). Enayat said he is in Kabul at the request of the central government to discuss the situation in Faryab. "All the important places have been occupied by the militia loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum," while the Afghan National Army is "only patrolling Maymana," Enayat said. In a 9 April announcement, the Afghan Defense Ministry said the National Army is in Faryab to "ensure security and restore public order; prevent clashes between willful armed groups; revive and restart government offices in Faryab Province; and to enhance the central government's influence," Afghanistan Television reported. (Amin Tarzi)

A delegation of Afghan Muslim clerics met with Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 5 April and requested curbs on "moral corruption," Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. The delegation, numbering about 60 clerics and headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice Mawlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari, presented Karzai with a resolution from Afghanistan's Council of Clerics, an influential group of religious scholars and clerics. An unidentified source told AIP that Karzai gave the delegation his full assurance that their concerns will be addressed. In March, the Council of Clerics issued a resolution condemning the consumption of alcohol, prostitution, and remarks critical of Islam in the press. It has also demanded that the Afghan leader address these issues. It was unclear from the report whether the delegation delivered the same resolution to Karzai or a different one. (Amin Tarzi)

Chairman Karzai told a news conference in Kabul on 6 April that there are no major problems in Afghanistan aside from opium-poppy cultivation and warlordism, Hindukosh News Agency reported. Briefing journalists about the recent Berlin donors conference (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 1 and 7 April 2004), Karzai said Afghanistan's responsibilities to donors are to wipe out poppy cultivation, disarm warlords, and use aid money in a transparent and proper manner toward reconstructing the country. Two mistakes were made in the initial fight against poppy cultivation, Karzai said: compensating farmers to destroy their poppy fields, which in turn encouraged them to grow more poppy; and not acting to provide alternative crops to discourage farmers from growing more poppy. Karzai also repeated his Berlin claim that there is a direct link between terrorism, "warlordism," and the production of illicit drugs (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 February and 7 April 2004). (Amin Tarzi)

The Afghan Transitional Administration, its U.S.-based consulting firm, and regional gas-industry representatives have met to discuss the transport of gas from northern Afghanistan to the capital Kabul, the local Jowzjan Aina Television reported on 5 April. The talks coincide with an ongoing survey on the supply of natural gas to Kabul from the Jowzjan Province in the north, the broadcaster added, and included representatives from the Afghan Mining and Industry Ministry, consultants Hill International, and the head of the Jowzjan Afghan Gas Department (identified only as "Habibullah"). The discovery of natural gas in Jowzjan Province in the 1970s spawned a small network of pipelines to carry gas to Mazar-e Sharif. (Amin Tarzi)

Zalmay Khalilzad has backed away from previous statements in which he suggested that Washington should send troops to Pakistan to combat Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements, the Karachi-based daily "Dawn" reported on 7 April. Khalilzad had told an audience in Washington on 4 April that the U.S. administration has already informed "the Pakistani leadership that either they must solve this problem or we will have to do it for ourselves," according to "Dawn." Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan described Khalilzad's initial statement as "unwarranted and uncalled for." In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on 7 April, Khalilzad asserted that elements of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and loyalists of former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are using Pakistani territory to destabilize Afghanistan. Pakistan has acknowledged the problem and wants to solve it independently, Khalilzad added. He said Islamabad has the capacity to tackle the problem, adding that most important is that the problem be solved. (Amin Tarzi)

10 April 1923 -- First Afghan Constitution adopted.

13 April 1966 -- Lower house of the Afghan parliament begins consideration of political parties draft law.

10 April 1991 -- Vice President Sultan Ali Keshtmand is dismissed.

Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan," Third Edition, by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003).