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'It Is Impossible Prisoners Were Abused'

General Abdul Rashid Dostum greets supporters in the Sheberghan region during the 2004 Afghan presidential election.
General Abdul Rashid Dostum greets supporters in the Sheberghan region during the 2004 Afghan presidential election.
I am deeply disappointed about "The New York Times" article by James Risen published on July 10 under the title "U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.'s Died."

The source of this report is a fabricated story that was published first in 2001 and since then has been published four more times by "The New York Times" or other publications.

The high military council of the Northern Alliance, of which all members of the National Unity Front were members, after investigating and discussing this story in September of 2002, published a statement. It was stated clearly that no intentional massacre of prisoners of war had taken place.

This fact was also confirmed by those who were responsible for accepting the surrender of these prisoners of war -- including doctors and members of the military forces of the United States. In addition, it was reported to me that the U.S. Defense Department had also confirmed this.

It is impossible that Taliban or Al-Qaeda prisoners could have been abused.

Our doctors in Sheberghan, the U.S. medical team, and officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the city of Konduz all helped prisoners who were injured by bombardments on the front lines. Most of them were saved from death.

I repeat once again that I had given very clear orders for all of our troops in the Northern United Front to treat prisoners well.

Such A Conspiracy 'Impossible'

I want to clarify this fact. What was written in the newspaper on July 10 clearly has a political motivation. People have the right to know that the article written by Mr. Risen is not a new report. This is just a repeat of an old story that was published first on the August 26, 2002, in "Newsweek" magazine. This story was very similar to another fake story published by [Irish filmmaker] Jamie Doran.

Fighters with the Northern Alliance prepare to attack Taliban positions in Khala Zahi in October 2001.
The statistics regarding those killed by the Northern United Front presented by Mr. Doran were more than the entire number of prisoners of war captured by us. The start of the story by Mr. Doran was also similar to some exaggerated reports about the uprising at Qala-i Janghi [Dostum's headquarters near Mazar in late 2001], close to the city of Mazar-e Sharif, that were published by suspect Pakistani sources. These stories were baseless and were refuted.

This article [in "The New York Times"] is even more ridiculous when we pay attention to its unbelievable accusations because it is said that all these terrible crimes were committed by an uncoordinated group of the Northern Alliance that consisted of 4,000 soldiers and a group of U.S. Special Forces. All of them were active in an area of 500 square meters.

More important is that a large number of international reporters were traveling up and down the only highway between Mazar-e Sharif and Sheberghan at the time. And sometimes, they were travelling with military units. But none of them published any report [about such a crime].

In addition, if such a massacre had taken place and if they had killed all the prisoners, that would have meant that neither the U.S. forces nor the Northern United Front were interested in getting information from these prisoners of war. This was at a time when we were trying to find out the hiding places of the Taliban and wanted to know if the Taliban were planning any attacks inside Afghanistan or in other parts of the world, in order to protect America from such attacks.

Therefore, the massacre of prisoners of war to the extent that has been claimed is against the principles of intelligence gathering and security. From a military point of view, it is unimaginable.

From another perspective, implementing such an enormous conspiracy in front the eyes of International Committee of the Red Cross monitors and international reporters would require organization by intelligence experts -- which at that time were not available in Afghanistan.

At that time we were not even able to provide the necessary medicine to our own injured troops or to provide them with ammunition for the war or to provide food for ourselves.

Therefore, how could it be possible that we could implement such a serious conspiracy?

It is quite simple: There was no possibility for such an undertaking.

Many Contradictions

So now we have the question: "Why are such deceitful reports being published again and again, particularly now, seven years after U.S. and Afghan authorities had already denied them?"

I believe one of the reasons is the present political difficulties and other problems in the United States. In my opinion, the other reason is the poisonous atmosphere of the upcoming presidential election in Afghanistan. These unpleasant conditions are the reason why the Taliban have become powerful and spread their influence in the country. And that is why the number of casualties among international and Afghan forces has risen.

Today, Mr. Risen -- by reviving his tale of lies from seven years ago -- wants to show that these incidents have been kept hidden. However, there is nothing to be hidden.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right) with Dostum in 2002
He has mentioned some satellite photographs about the excavations in the Dasht-e Leili. But what he does not explain in this report is the timing of what he is talking about. There were no such excavations at that time because at that time I was leading the northern region. And at that time, I was taking care that no one in that area could excavate.

In the years 2004-05, all forces of the Northern United Front in the area were disarmed. The forces of the United Nations and of the Interior Ministry of the [Afghan] central government had responsibility for this region. I was living from 2005 until 2008 in Kabul. And at the end of 2008, I left for Turkey. So therefore, Mr. Risen in his report is giving contradictory information about my role.

It seems to me that nobody is paying attention to such contradictions. It is really very strange for me and most Afghans that a large number of U.S. reporters try to blame their very brave and honest soldiers, and their friends and colleagues for all that is happening at a time when the war is growing in intensity and a large number of U.S. and NATO forces are being killed on a daily basis by the Taliban and their foreign supporters. And it happens again at a time when most reporters are helping the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces to return to the north and intimidate or kill people.

'Story Of Failure'

Seven years of efforts toward nation- and state-building by Westerners with a huge budget have only led to an increase in operations by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and the spread of their influence as far as Pakistan and Central Asia.

My greatest disappointment is that none of the reports in the Western media focuses on the sacrifices and risk taking by U.S. soldiers or the United Front.

Particularly, the thousands of Afghans who have been martyred by the Taliban are never mentioned. And they don't mention the hundreds or possibly thousands of American lives that have been saved because of the bravery of the Uzbeks, Hazara, Tajiks, and Pashtuns of Afghanistan, who have sacrificed their beautiful lives in Afghanistan.

Mr. Risen's report is, unfortunately, a sad story of failure. The story gives the impression that the United States and Western countries have come to a country without knowing the desire of its people, and that they know nothing of the historical relationship between the state and society in that country. This story is based on extremism and negative propaganda of the past.

In this way, not only the friends and close colleagues of the United States and Western countries but also their own brave soldiers, feel disappointed and humiliated when they read reports that only encourage Taliban terrorists and their friends and supporters among Al-Qaeda.

It is regrettable that the real purpose of this article is not the study and analysis of the abuse of power in Afghanistan. It only considers the past 30 years. If the purpose of the article were [to study the abuse of power in Afghanistan], the writer should have tried to present facts in a balanced way in order to promote understanding, good will, and confidence among the deprived people of different groups that are now far from their government.

In addition to responding to "The New York Times," I would like to use this opportunity to make clear that I am a citizen of Afghanistan. We have a constitution and other laws in our country, and we have an elected president. All our problems -- all the other issues of the citizens of Afghanistan at different levels -- should be solved by judicial officials in Afghanistan. Thank God, Afghanistan is an independent country and can make decisions about its own issues.

I would also like to address my dear countrymen. Without considering all these politically motivated rumors in the media, they should show their own will in the election when choosing the future president of the country -- His Excellency Hamid Karzai. I was faced seven years ago with such rumors. And they are being repeated again and again.

And I have responded every time to these rumors. I want to assure you all that General Dostum will soon be among the heroic peoples of Afghanistan. The way of struggle is never a smooth path. It is always a road with highs and lows. General Dostum has seen many of these highs and lows. Spreading such rumors will never have an impact on his strong will.

"If you walk in the desert with the intention of reaching the Kaaba, many thorns will prick your feet."

General Abdul Rashid Dostum is the founder and leader of the party of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL