Abdul Rashid Dostum

Abdul Rashid Dostum
Uzbek: Abdul Rashid Dostum
Abdul Rashid Dostum VOA Jan 22 2002 retouched.jpg
General Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Afghan army
Born 1954 (age 56–57)
Khvajeh Do Kuh, Afghanistan
Allegiance Afghanistan Republic of Afghanistan (1978-1992)
Flag of Jihad.svg Mujahideen allied with Massoud (1992-1994)
Flag of Jihad.svg Mujahideen allied with Hekmatyar (1994-1996)
Afghanistan Northern Alliance (1996-2001)
Afghanistan Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2001-)
Years of service 1978-
Rank General
Battles/wars Soviet war in Afghanistan
Civil war in Afghanistan
NATO war in Afghanistan
History of Afghanistan
The smaller Buddah of Bamiyan

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Abdul Rashid Dostum (born 1954) is a former pro-Soviet fighter during the Soviet war in Afghanistan and is considered by many to be the leader of Afghanistan's Uzbek community and the party Junbish-e Milli-yi Islami-yi Afghanistan. He joined the Afghan military in 1978, fighting with the Soviets and against the mujahideen throughout the 1980s before joining the mujahideen in 1992, after the Soviet withdrawal, to assist in the capture of Kabul. He is a general and the Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Afghan National Army a role often viewed as ceremonial.[1] In early 2008 he was removed from his army role because of the Akbar Bai kidnapping incident. Dostum spent a year living in Turkey.[2] In June 2009, shortly before the presidential elections, Afghan President Hamid Karzai reappointed Dostum to his post.[2][3]

Human rights groups have accused his troops of human rights violations, charges which Dostum denies.[4][5][6][7][8]


Military career

Early life

Dostum was born in Khvajeh Do Kuh, Afghanistan. In 1970 he began to work in a state-owned gas refinery in Sheberghan, Jowzjan Province, participating in union politics, as the new government started to arm the staff of the workers in the oil and gas refineries. The reason for this was to create "groups for the defense of the revolution". Because of the new communist ideas entering Afghanistan in the 1970s, he enlisted himself in the army. Dostum received his basic military training in Jalalabad. His squadron, in response to increasing conflict, was deployed in the rural areas around Sheberghan, under the auspices of the Ministry of National Security.[9]

By the mid 1980s his platoon had grown in stature, reaching a company level and by the mid-1980s he was in command of over 20,000 militia and had reached a regimental level.[10] While the unit recruited throughout Jowzjan and had a relatively broad base, many of its early troops and commanders came from Dostum's home village, Khoja Dukoh, and these represented the core of the unit at that juncture and again when it was reconstituted after the American Invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He left the army after the purge of Parchamis, but returned after the Soviet occupation began.[9]

Soviet war in Afghanistan

As the situation in the Republic of Afghanistan deteriorated with massive uprising occurring all over the country, the then prime minister Hafizullah Amin, seized control when he overthrew president Nur Mohammad Taraki. The KGB reported that Amin sought to cut ties with the Soviet Union and instead ally itself with the People's Republic of China and Pakistan. This prompted the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan and assassinate president Amin in 1979. Soviet military commander announced to Radio Kabul that Afghanistan had been "liberated" from Amin's rule.

Mujahideen attacks were still a problem in the country. By this time Dostum was commanding a militia battalion to fight and rout rebel forces. This eventually became a regiment and later became incorporated into the defense forces as the 53rd Infantry Division. Dostum and his new division reported directly to then-President Mohammad Najibullah. Later on he became the commander of the military unit 374 in Jowzjan. He defended the communist Republic of Afghanistan against the American and Pakistani-backed mujahideens in the 1980s. While he was only a regional commander, he had largely raised the militia he fought with by himself. The Jowzjani militia Dostum controlled was one of the few militia forces in the country which was able to be outside of its region. The militia forces were deployed in the city Qandahar in 1988 when Soviet forces withdrew in 1989.[11]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 the communist regime faced economic problems. The new Russian government did not want anything to do with their old communist allies. So they stopped sending supplies to the country, which began an economic crisis in the country. The Soviet Union was Afghanistan's main trading partner from the start in 1978. This eventually led to government officials swapping allegiances and would eventually lead to Mohammad Najibullahs governments fall in 1992.[12]

Dostum army forces would become an important factor in the fall of Kabul in 1992. On 18 April 1992 the mujahideen began their revolt against the government of Najibullah. He allied himself with mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, Sayed Jafar Naderi,[13] the head of the Isma'ili community and Baghlan Province, and together they captured the city of Kabul.

After the siege in 1992 he and Masoud fought in a coalition against Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.[11] Masoud and Dostum's forces joined together to defend Kabul against Hekmatyar, with some 4000-5000 of his troops, units of his Shiberghan-based 53rd Division and Balkh-based Guards Division garrisoning Bala Hissar fort, Maranjan Hill, and Khwaja Rawash International Airport.[14]

Civil War

Abdul Rashid Dostum and Hamid Karzai, December 24, 2001

In 1994, Dostum allied himself with the forces of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Again, Dostum was laying a siege on Kabul which started in 1995 and ended in 1997. This time he was fighting against the government Burhanuddin Rabbani and Massoud.[11]

Following the rise of the Taliban and their capture of Herat and Kabul, Dostum aligned himself with Rabbani against the Taliban. Dostum however retreated to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.[11]

At this point he is said to have had a force of some 50,000 men supported by both aircraft and tanks. He was supported by all opponents of the Taliban including Russia, Iran and India. He ruled what was, in effect, an independent region. He printed his own Afghan currency and ran a small airline named Balkh Air.[15]

In October 1996 Dostum came to an agreement with Massoud to form the anti-Taliban coalition that outside Afghanistan became known as the Northern Alliance. They vowed to set up a non-fundamentalist government in the nine northern provinces under their control. Their pact was also signed by Abdul Karim Khalily, leader of the Shiite Muslim minority in Afghanistan, whose forces controlled a 10th province. The Taliban controlled all the other 19 Afghan provinces, except a part of Parwan Province north of Kabul that was held by the Massoud forces.[16][17]

Much like other northern alliance leaders, Dostum also faced infighting within his group and was later forced tor retreat from power thanks to his General Abdul Malik Pahlawan. Initially, Malik was one of Dostum's subordinates, but in 1996 he blamed Dostum for the murder of his brother Rasoul. He then entered into secret negotiations with the Taliban, who promised to respect his authority over much of Northern Afghanistan, in exchange for the capture of Ismail Khan, one of their most powerful enemies.[18][19] Accordingly, on 25 May 1997 he arrested Khan and handed him over and let the Taliban enter Mazari Sharif, giving them control over most of Northern Afghanistan. Because of this treason, Dostum was forced to flee to Turkey.[20] However Malik quickly realized that the Taliban were not going to keep their promises as they started to disarm his men. He then rejoined forces with the Northern Alliance, and turned against his erstwhile allies, helping to drive them from Mazar-i-Sharif. In October 1997, Dostum returned from exile and defeated Malik, briefly regaining control of Mazar-i-Sharif, and forcing Malik to escape to Iran. But in 1998 he was forced to flee to Turkey again.[11][21]

Dostum returned in 2001. At this time Massoud had used his CIA funds to fly Dostum and his commanders back to open a new front in the campaign against Taliban. Along with General Mohammed Fahim and Ismail Khan, Dostum was one of three leaders of the Northern Alliance.[10]

US invasion of Afghanistan

In November 2001, with the beginning of the US invasion of Afghanistan, and against the wishes of the CIA who distrusted Dostum, a team including Johnny Micheal Spann landed to set up communications in the Dariya Suf. A few hours later 23 men of Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595 landed to begin the war.[22][23]

On 24 November 2001, 300 Taliban soldiers retreated after the Siege of Kunduz by American and Afghan military forces. The taliban laid down their weapons a few miles from the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. They eventually surrendered peacefully to Dostum.

A small group of armed foreign fighters drove to Mazar-i-Sharif and were moved to the 19th century prison fortress, Qala-i-Jangi. These fighters would use concealed weapons start the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi against the Northern Alliance and later British and American forces. The uprising eventually overpowered the Northern Alliance soldiers placed to defend the prison.

There were unproven allegations in 2001 that Dostum and his forces, who were fighting jointly with US Special Forces, suffocated as many as 2,000 prisoners in container trucks following the Taliban surrender of Kunduz in an incident that has become known as the Dasht-i-Leili massacre.[24][25]

Political career

Afghan Government

Dostum served as a deputy defense minister for Karzai in the national government in Kabul. In March 2003, Dostum established a North Zone of Afghanistan, against the wishes of interim president Hamid Karzai. On 20 May 2003, after narrowly escaping an assassination attempt, Dostum assumed the position of "Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief of the Afghan Armed Forces".

In the aftermath of the Taliban's removal from northern Afghanistan, forces loyal to Dostum frequently clashed with forces loyal to Tajik General Ustad Atta Mohammed Noor after Atta'smen kidnapped and killed a number of Dostum's men and constantly agitated to gain control of Mazar i Sharif. Through the political mediations of the Karzai regime, the U.S.-led international military coalition, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, as well as the UN-run Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program, the Dostum-Atta feud has largely ended. The two are now generally politically allied as part of a broader ideological effort to protect the interests of Afghanistan's war veterans and to preserve their own power. On 1 March 2005 President Hamid Karzai appointed him Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief.

Akbar Bai Incident

On 2 February 2008, about 50 of Dostum's fighters reportedly attacked Akbar Bai, a former ally of Dostum who had become his rival.[26][27][28][29] In this attack, which occurred at Bai's home, Bai, his son, and a bodyguard were said to have been beaten, and another bodyguard was said to have been shot. Early on 3 February, Dostum's house was surrounded by police.[30] Bai and the three others were freed and hospitalized.[27] According to the authorities, the stand-off at Dostum's home between his fighters and the police ended with Dostum's agreement to cooperate with the authorities in an investigation of the incident.[31] Radio Free Europe reported on 6 February 2008 that Afghan Attorney-General Abdul Jabar Sabit said charges against Dostum were pending.,[26] Sabit said that the political and security situation would make it difficult to prosecute Dostum. The charges, according to Sabit, included kidnapping, breaking and entering, and assault. They were dropped by mutual consent and Dostum was reinstated by President Karzai.

"These are not political accusations -- it is a criminal case ... Anyone who commits a criminal act must be brought to justice," Sabit says. But in reality, I must admit that there will be some difficulties. In this war situation, in many cases, it is difficult for us to implement the law ... seven or eight [northern provinces could slide into civil war] if anyone touches even one hair on Dostum's head.
—Mohammad Alem Sayeh[26]

According to a spokesman for the United National Front of Afghanistan, Sayed Hussain Sancharaki says that General Dostum has a high profile among his people and is one of the famous political and military figures of Afghanistan. He is Karzai's chief of staff for the armed forces and he is a senior member of the United Front of Afghanistan. It is natural that any kind of action against him will have repercussions. The consequences will be very dangerous—catastrophic—for the stability of Afghanistan."[26]

Human Rights Watch spokesmen Sam Zia-Zarifi, called the charges a sign of Afghanistan's "growing balkanization".[26] He asserted that the size of warlords private armies was increasing, fueled by illicit profits from Afghanistan's Opium trade.

On 19 February, it was announced that Sabit had suspended Dostum from his position as Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief after he failed to appear when summoned for the investigation. According to Dostum, this was "not in line with the law", and he said that he would request Karzai's intervention. Three allies of Dostum—Latif Pedram and two members of parliament—were also summoned for the investigation.[31]

Time in Turkey

Some media reports beginning 4 December said that Dostum was "seeking political asylum" in Turkey [32] while others said he was exiled.[33] One Turkish media outlet said Dostum was visiting after flying there with Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan during a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).[34]

Like most rumors spread about Dostum, it turned out to much less dramatic: Dostum was visiting his Ankara-based wife and children during the holiday of Eid.[citation needed] He continues to maintain strong ties with Turkey.

Political and social views

In most ethnic-Uzbek dominated areas in which Dostum has control or influence, he encourages women to live and work freely, as well as encouraging music, sports and allowing for freedom of religion.[citation needed] While Dostum was ruling northern Afghanistan before the Taliban takeover in 1998, women were able to go about unveiled, alcohol was sold freely, and the cinemas showed Indian films.[35]

He views the NATO attempt to crush the Taliban as ineffective and has gone on record saying that he could mop up the Taliban "in six months",[1] if allowed to raise a 10,000 strong army of Afghan veterans.[1] Senior Afghan government officials do not trust Dostum as they show great concern that Dostum is covertly rearming his forces.[1]

Return to Afghanistan

Late at night on 16 August 2009, Dostum made a requested return from exile to Kabul to support President Hamid Karzai in his bid for re-election. The next day, the last day of campaigning, he flew by helicopter to his northern stronghold of Sheberghan, where he was greeted by 20,000 supporters in the local stadium.[36] He subsequently made overtures to the United States, promising he could "destroy the Taliban and al Qaeda" if supported by the U.S., saying that "the U.S. needs strong friends like Dostum."[37]


  1. ^ a b c d David Pugliese (10 May 2007). "Former Afghan warlord says he can defeat Taliban". CanWest News Service. http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=1acb5330-dfe8-4f0e-8a1b-4f581478244f&k=44800&p=1. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  2. ^ a b Risen, James (2009-07-10). "New York Times: U.S. Inaction Seen After Taliban P.O.W.’s Died". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/world/asia/11afghan.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  3. ^ "Afghan Leader Outmaneuvers Election Rivals"
  4. ^ Filkins, Dexter; Gall, Carlotta (2001-11-23). "A Nation challenged: Siege; Fierce Fighting Erupts Near Kunduz, Despite Surrender Deal". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/23/world/nation-challenged-siege-fierce-fighting-erupts-near-kunduz-despite-surrender.html?pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  5. ^ Oppel Jr, Richard A. (2009-08-08). "Afghan Leader Courts the Warlord Vote". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/08/world/asia/08warlords.html. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  6. ^ Gall, Carlotta; Landler, Mark (2002-01-05). "A Nation challenged: The captives; Prison Packed With Taliban Raises Concern". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/05/world/a-nation-challenged-the-captives-prison-packed-with-taliban-raises-concern.html?pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  7. ^ Rich Oppel (2009-07-18). "Afghan Warlord Denies Links to '01 Killings". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/world/asia/18dostum.html?scp=6&sq=Taliban%20general&st=cse. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  8. ^ Dostum, Abdul Rashid (2009-07-17). "It Is Impossible Prisoners Were Abused". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. http://www.rferl.org/content/It_Is_Impossible_Prisoners_Were_Abused/1779291.html. Retrieved 2009-07-30. 
  9. ^ a b "Abdul Rashid Dostum". Global Security. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/afghanistan/dostum.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  10. ^ a b "Profile: General Rashid Dostum". BBC News. 2001-09-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1563344.stm. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  11. ^ a b c d e "Abdul Rashid Dostum". Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. http://www.islamicrepublicofafghanistan.com/abdul-rashid-dostum/. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  12. ^ "The Demise of the Soviet Union". lcweb2.loc.gov/. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+af0119). Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  13. ^ Vogelsang (2002), p. 324.
  14. ^ Anthony Davis, 'The Battlegrounds of Northern Afghanistan,' Jane's Intelligence Review, July 1994, p.323-4
  15. ^ Vogelsang (2002), p. 232.
  16. ^ "2 Afghan factions sign pact to fight new Kabul rulers"
  17. ^ "Afghan Fights Islamic Tide: As a Savior or a Conqueror?"
  18. ^ Johnson, Thomas H.. "Ismail Khan, Herat, and Iranian Influence". Center for Contemporary Conflict. http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2004/jul/johnsonJul04.asp. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  19. ^ De Ponfilly, Christophe(2001); Massoud l'Afghan; Gallimard; ISBN 2-07-042468-5; p. 75
  20. ^ page 6-8 - Nate Hardcastle. American Soldier: Stories of Special Forces from Grenada to Afghanistan (2002 ed.). Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 364. ISBN 1560254386. 
  21. ^ UN Security Council report. "La situation en Afghanistan et ses conséquences pour la paix et la sécurité internationales". Human Rights Internet ( http://www.hri.ca/index.aspx ). Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20070930165006/http://www.hri.ca/forthereCord1998/bilan1998/documentation/security/s-1998-222.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  22. ^ Robert Young Pelton (2007). "The Legend of Heavy D & the Boys:In the Field With an Afghan Warlord". national geographic. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/0203/story.html#story_3. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  23. ^ "ODA 595". PBS. 2007. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/campaign/interviews/595.html. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  24. ^ Dehghanpisheh, Babak; Barry, John; Gutman, Roy (2002-08-22). "The Death Convoy Of Afghanistan: Witness Reports And The Probing Of A Mass Grave Point To War Crimes. Does The United States Have Any Responsibility For The Atrocities Of Its Allies?". Newsweek. http://www.newsweek.com/id/65473. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  25. ^ "PHR Activities and Investigations Concerning the Mass Gravesite at Dasht-e-Leili Near Sheberghan, Afghanistan". Physicians for Human Rights. http://afghanistan.phrblog.org/get-the-facts/chronology/. Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  26. ^ a b c d e Ron Synovitz (6 February 2008). "Afghanistan: Prosecutor Suggests 'Some People' Cannot Be Tried". Radio Free Europe. http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticleprint/2008/02/122575eb-8f5a-42b2-8dac-d519c58ecbf7.html. Retrieved 2008-02-09. 
  27. ^ a b Abdul Waheed Wafa (2008-02-04). "Kabul police surround home of the former warlord Dostum". International Herald Tribune. http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/02/04/asia/afghan.php. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  28. ^ "Former Warlord in Standoff With Police at Kabul Home"
  29. ^ "Kabul police surround home of the former warlord Dostum"
  30. ^ "Afghan police lay siege to home of former warlord"
  31. ^ a b "Feared Afghan strongman suspended from government post", AFP, 19 February 2008.
  32. ^ "Dostum seeking asylum in Turkey - media reports," Quqnoos.com, 6 December 2008, retrieved 6 December 2008
  33. ^ "Afghan general Rashid Dostum flies to exile in Turkey," Deutsche Presse-Agentur via earthtimes.org, 4 December 2008, retrieved 6 December 2008
  34. ^ "Afghan warlord in Turkey but not in exile, official says," Today's Zaman, 5 December 2008, retrieved 6 December 2008
  35. ^ Vogelsang (2002) p. 232.
  36. ^ Times Online. "Afghan warlord General Dostum returns to boost Karzai’s campaign."
  37. ^ Motlagh, Jason; Carter, Sara A. (2009-09-22). "Afghan warlords will fight if U.S. gives weapons". Washington Times. http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/sep/22/afghan-warlords-will-fight-if-us-gives-aid/?feat=home_headlines&. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 


  • Vogelsang, Willem. (2002). The Afghans. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford. ISBN 0-631-19841-5.

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