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Warlord Rashid Dostum, “King” of Mazar-e-Sharif pledges to kill Taliban in Afghanistan

Abdul Rasheed Dostum, Former Vice President of Afghanistan

He is back. The “famous” warlord of the north and the former Vice President of Afghanistan, Abdul Rashid Dostum is finally back, celebrating his return with a vow to  “suppress” the Taliban. Dostum reached his  home province of Jawzjan in northern Afghanistan and took command from his lieutenants after talking to  Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. 

“I predicted this years ago,” Dostum told  TOLO news, referring to the Taliban offensives in northern provinces. Now that such a situation has come, it is our home, I have been raised there… I will be proud if I am killed and martyred there.” 

Dostum called upon the Afghan security forces not to surrender to the Taliban. Instead, it was essential to continue fighting till victory was achieved.

Dostum was on the front when he got “ill” suddenly and was taken to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. On June 15, his daughter, Rahela Dostum had shared photographs of Marshal Dostum on her Facebook page and wrote: “My father Marshal Dostum in the line of fire against the enemy of this land.” Afghanistan Times reported that he and his eldest son Yar Mohammad may have been poisoned on the battlefield while fighting the Taliban and both were taken to Turkey for treatment. According to the media reports, he was directing his forces against the Taliban. Enayatullah Farahmand, deputy head of the High Council for National Reconciliation and a close aide of Dostum, had tweeted that Dostum had called his local commanders and supporters to stand up to the Taliban and promised to return to Afghanistan soon.

This is not the first battle Dostum has led. Over the decades,  the veteran warlord  has on a number of occasions led his militias  to fight the Taliban. In January this year, he led a major operation against the Taliban in Qaramqal district of northern Faryab province. It is said that the  militants were cleared within 12 hours. According to the Ariana news, a government agency, the war lord Dostum led the combined Afghan army.

“Enter the houses like a wolf, check the houses, drill holes in the walls and see, but be aware of yourself. Taliban commanders are definitely here. Hit them all and one of your bullets should not go missed,” the news agency quoted Dostum as saying.

 Ariana news link:  Dostum returns to the battlefield to fight the Taliban

A ruthless Uzbek strongman, Gen. Dostum has long maintained a private army of thousands from his base in Jowzjan Province. Though accused of war crimes, Dostum, nevertheless is considered to be a central figure in any armed uprising against the Taliban.

Dostum served as Vice President of Afghanistan from 2014 to 2020. In 2001 he was the key ally to US Special Forces and the CIA during the campaign to topple the Taliban regime. 

Also read:  India’s friend “Lion of Herat” Ismail Khan vows to crush Taliban in Afghanistan

Dostum was part of erstwhile Northern Alliance backed by India, Iran and Russia. He had visited New Delhi last year. 

Dostum has always been the prime target on the Taliban’s hitlist. There have been few deadly attacks against  him. The Taliban has vowed the former warlord Dostum remains one of their prime targets.

“Dostum has long been our target and we have never given any undertaking not to attack him,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in his posts.

An ex-communist who always wore his religion and politics lightly, Dostum’s alliance with Ahmed Shah Massoud in the early 1990’s was an important turning point in the Mujahideen’s war against the Soviet-supported government of Mohammad Najibullah.

Also read:  Ghani calls for “countrywide mobilization” to counter the Taliban onslaught in Afghanistan

He also majorly influenced other warlords such as Atta Muhammad Noor, Mohammad Ismail Khan and most importantly, the  Tajik and Uzbek militias.

According to Afghan watchers, Dostum and Ismail Khan stand out in President Ghani’s war plan against the Taliban. Atta Mohammad Noor, the former  governor of Balkh province is also part of the “resistance”. As the heads of two traditionally rival parties – Dostum’s National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan and Atta’s Jamiat-e Islami – the two commanders have large bands of armed men at their disposal.

According to the media reports, during the Moscow Troika conference held  in March this year, Dostum and Taliban’s Mullah Fazel, who represents the groups in the peace negotiations had an ugly fight on the sidelines of the meeting. According to reports, Dostum put his hand on Mullah Fazil’s shoulder and asked about his health, but Fazil got angry and removed Dostum’s, calling him a “traitor” and a “killer.”

Dostum and Mullah Fazil have fought many deadly wars against each other in northern Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Fazil had to surrender to Dostum’s forces and  Dostum handed him to American forces. He was then sent to Guantanamo where he remained for many years.