Accused of War Crimes, Warlord Returns to Afghanistan…to Campaign for Karzai

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Abdul Rashid Dostum

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s determination to win re-election this week has included not only pushing a controversial law to appeal to Shia male voters, but also bringing back a former warlord accused of massacring thousands of Taliban forces in order to win support from an ethnic minority. Abdul Rashid Dostum flew back to his home country on Sunday and was given his old job back as chief of staff for the Afghan armed forces—all in an attempt to woo Uzbek voters to Karzai.

Dostum’s infamy began in late 2001, when his forces—fighting in support of the U.S. invasion—rounded up and killed as many as 2,000 Taliban through executions and allowing them to suffocate in shipping containers. The bodies were then buried in a mass grave in Dasht-i-Leili. The Obama administration has promised to investigate claims that officials serving under George W. Bush tried to cover up the massacre and prevent probes by federal law enforcement and diplomatic offices.
Dostum was suspended last year as Karzai’s military chief of staff after he refused to cooperate in an investigation into the shooting of a rival warlord. This scandal, as well as the Taliban massacre, apparently wasn’t as important to Karzai as what Dostum could bring to the ballot box. In 2004, when he ran for president, Dostum won 10% of the vote, which means he could deliver as many as 600,000 votes to Karzai on Thursday.
If his support proves successful, Dostum could be in line for a cabinet position in Karzai’s next government, or a governorship.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Exiled Afghan Warlord Returns as Election Nears (by Jason Straziuso, Associated Press)
Militia Commander Campaigns for Karzai (by Joshua Partlow, Washington Post)


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