Wednesday, September 24, 2003

DISARMING THE WARLORDS: I promised a response to wire reports concerning Karzai's Defense Ministry-reform. Agence France Press report the following appointments:

Eight appointments were given to members of the Pashtun majority… [t]he deputy ministerial position has been given to a Pashtun, Major General Farooq Wardak. He replaced General Bismullah Khan, a close ally of powerful Tajik Defense Minister Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, who was made army chief.

Five Tajiks, four Hazaras, two Uzbeks, one Baluchi and one Nuristani were also named to new positions, the ministry said.
Even though the reform is a good (first) step from the quite reluctant Karzai, the status quo remains; the Ministry of Defense remains firmly under control of the Tajik Northern Alliance, led by Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, even though the Pashtuns gained the largest representation. Karzai's opponents and rival warlords—mostly Pashtuns—have always complained of Northern Alliance-hegemony and ethnic under-representation in the Defense of Ministry and therefore remaining wary of giving up power or arms. The question remains if Fahim's rivals will be sufficiently confident and convinced enough, in the new ethnic and factional representation in the ministry, to go along with an ambitious plan, announced yesterday, to disarm and demobilize 100,000 factional fighters. The plan would start in the cities of Kunduz, Gardez and Mazer-e-Sharif, slowly moving the disarmament drive to Kandahar and Kabul.

Moving power away from Fahim and his fellow Northern Alliance commanders won’t be easy. Their grip on Kabul is still going strong, almost 2 years after the Bonn agreement ordered the removal of Northern Alliance soldiers and tanks. That has not happened.

The Northern Alliance’s fixation with Ahmed Shah Masoud, the martyred hero, has subsided but their political ambitions have joined forces with genuine reverence in keeping his spirit alive. They’re anxious to keep the flames of nostalgia for their lost hero burning in an effort to boost their political standing making it difficult to block their influence over the local population. Divided by their own differences and lacking a common political agenda, Northern Alliance leaders are using the figure of Masoud as a symbol around which to rally support. And most of the time—it’s works.

UPDATE: All those fired were Tajiks.

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