Thursday, October 09, 2003

WARLORDS AT IT AGAIN: Atta Mohammed versus Abdul Rashid Dostum at it again. I haven't counted all their clashes, but it's been more than a dozen times.

Dostum is a vicious man. He sided with Afghan communists and the Soviets, than joined the mujahedin. When the Taliban gained power, he sided with them. He split and the Taliban drove him into exile--twice; once in 1997 and again in 1998. He came back in 2001 to fight along with the Northern Alliance and U.S. special forces. The Tajik versus Uzbek fighting started in the beginning of 2002 when both Mohammad and Dostum focused on control of Mazar-e-Sharif, in the north. They both fought against the Taliban and now both are wearing Western tailored business suits. (Yes, that's right: warlords in suits. Nobody matches Afghan warlordism.) Even though Dostum is the deputy Afghan Defense Minister, it's Mohammad who's being backed by Defense Minister Fahim, because Mohammad (like Fahim) is Tajik and member of the Jamiat-e-Islami faction. Another reason Fahim is backing Mohammad: Dostum relaunched his old political party, the National Islamic Movement, or Jombesh-i-Milli Islami. Known simply as Jombesh, the group has a platform that rests on secular democracy (despite its name) and respect for minority rights, which translates to a federalist agenda. Dostum has hit out in speeches at "extremism" and "fundamentalism." Read: Jamiat-e-Islami.

Even though warlords are supposed to be disarmed in a U.N-sponsored plan starting October 15th, fighting will continue. Dostum is one politician who still fields an army. Whoever rules in Kabul is not apt to forget it.

UPDATE: If you want to know what Dostum's different costumes, check out the Google image search. You have him in Soviet fatigue, traditional Afghan clothes and yes, in a suit.

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