Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Afghanistan: Warlords' Threat to Secede

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Afghanistan: Warlords' Threat to Secede

Article excerpt

On 20 January, the morning of the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Adha--the celebration of sacrifice--the suicide bomber struck outside the mosque in Sheberghan, northern Afghanistan. Sent by the Taliban, he was dressed as a beggar because on Eid no one should deny a beggar's request. And if, like the intended target, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, you have a following to uphold, it would be very unwise to turn down a beggar on Eid in front of a crowd of hundreds. Only when the beggar started running towards Dostum did the bodyguards become suspicious and kick him to the ground. He blew himself up, injuring 20, but Dostum--who was part of the alliance that overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001 and whose army is accused of leaving prisoners to perish inside sealed steel containers--escaped unscathed.

The attack came at an awkward moment for the now elected president, Hamid Karzai, who is trying to broker a deal with the Taliban and bring an end to their insurgency. It seems that many Taliban militants want to return to a normal life but fear that the US military will still harass them if they lay down their arms.

Days after being confirmed as the election winner, Karzai promised to rein in the warlords. He has, for example, sacked the defence minister, the heavily armed Mohammed Fahim. But this bolder Karzai has brought together warlords who used to be enemies of each other. Dostum and Atta Mohammad have issued a joint demand that the mainly Tajik and Uzbek north be granted autonomy from the centre. …

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