Afghan Warlord Demands Changes in Karzai Government

A controversial leader of the second largest party in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Dostum is demanding that the government fire the defense and interior ministers or face an even larger uprising. Dostum’s soldiers forced the governor and provincial commander Mohammad Hashim Habibi to flee the provincial capital, Maimana, Thursday. The government said one person was killed and 15 were injured in clashes.

After meeting with Deputy Defense Minister General Mohibullah Friday, Dostrom, who is also a special adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said that if the president does not fire Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, “his government will fail.”

He said Fahim was only interested in extending his own power, and Jalali had been out of the country working in Washington while Dostum and others were fighting to overthrow the former Taliban regime.

Dostum also complained about U.S. planes hovered over his house in the town of Shiberghan Thursday night.

“My kids were frightened, but let me say that I am not the type of man to be afraid,” he said.

The governor of the Faryab province, Anayatullah Anayat, told Afghan Islamic Press that Dostum launched the assault after Habibi’s decision to align himself and his forces with Karzai’s central government.

“The reason why the fighting starting is that the commander of the 200 military division, realizing the legitimacy of the central government, announced his loyalty to the central government, disobeying Dostum,” Anayat said.

According to Karzai’s spokesman, Jawed Ludin, Maimana was in the hands of “irresponsible armed individuals from neighboring provinces.”

“General Dostum is an adviser to the president. However, that does not give him the right to deploy forces or get involved in any military operational issues,” Ludin said.

The takeover marks the second time in less than a month that a powerful warlord has exerted force against the central government. Last month in the previously quiet western city of Herat, militiamen loyal to the city’s warlord governor, Ismail Khan, drove national troops from the city, leaving scores dead.

With landmark elections due in September, analysts said the fighting suggests that Karzai had little control outside the capital.

“First in Herat, and now in the north, we’re seeing warlords taking on the central government and succeeding,” Samina Ahmed of the International Crisis Group told the British newspaper, The Guardian.

“With the elections pending, this shows that Karzai is going to have a really big problem on his hands.”