Eurasian Politician

The Eurasian Politician - November 2002


Anssi Kullberg, July 2002


When the media rushed to wait for a war to Peshawar and Quetta, two Afghan leaders rose into prominence to become next leader of Afghanistan: Abdul Haq in Peshawar, and Hamid Karzai in Quetta. The Pakistani journalist Imtiaz Gul assumes that both had been supported by the CIA already before, and they were sent with direct American backing to raise uprisings against the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Pashtun regions; Karzai in Uruzgan, and Haq in the east. Abdul Haq was however trapped by the Taliban, and consequently executed, while Karzai managed in his job. The American Afghan and President Bush’s advisor Zalmay Khalilzad was acting as a "kingmaker" and persuaded the Afghan leaders to accept Karzai as their new leader. According to Imtiaz Gul, the most important merit for Karzai to become the West’s favourite was his being an ethnic Pashtun.

Karzai was originally from Uruzgan and his Pashtun tribe Popalzai is inhabiting the region surrounding Kandahar. Hamid’s father Abdul Ahad Karzai acted as a parliamentarian during King Zahir Shah’s reign. Ahad Karzai was murdered in 1999, and the position of the tribal elder was inherited by Hamid. He accused the Taliban for his father’s murder. Hamid Karzai got his education in India. He acted as a deputy foreign minister in the Mujahid Government of Afghanistan in 1992. Karzai, however, quit the government in 1994 for internal disputes. Later the Taliban appointed Karzai as their ambassador to the UN, but Imtiaz Gul tells us Mullah Omar cancelled the nomination after hearing that Karzai did not have a proper beard.


Hamid Karzai’s position after the Loya Jirga is weaker than before it, but he still survives, although now increasingly dependent on international (Coalition and ISAF) backing. After the Loya Jirga, the strongest man in Afghanistan has been General and since recently Marshal Mohammed Qasim Fahim Khan, the legendary resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud’s less honourable successor. Before, during and after the Loya Jirga, Gen. Fahim has been in a dictating position towards Karzai and the whole government. Fahim controls militarily all of Kabul area, the Tajik areas of Northeast Afghanistan, and of course the Panjshir Valley. Karzai appointed him as both minister of defence and a vice president, as there was no other chance for Karzai but to please Fahim.

Compared with late Massoud, Fahim is pro-Russian. Besides Russia, he relies on Russia’s allies India and the communist regime of Tajikistan. According to some reports Fahim was educated by the KGB, and already long back in time came into argument with Massoud about to what extent the Tajik-dominated Shura-ye Nazar, which was risking total collapse in isolation, should be surrendered into FSB and GRU co-ordination. It was evident that Massoud, who had been the archenemy of the KGB, bore Russian patronage only hardly, whereas Fahim was loyal to the Russians. According to other sources, however, also Massoud himself trusted Fahim and nominated him as his successor. However, these sources should also be taken critically as they also claimed Massoud to have repeated his support for Fahim to succeed him while dying after the assassination on 9th Sept 2001 by two Tunisian-born Al Qaida terrorists, who posed themselves as journalists. It is namely more probable that Massoud’s death was instant.

In early 2002 Fahim’s men murdered the minister of aviation Abdur Rahman, although in the beginning disinformation claimed that the Pashtun minister had been "spontaneously" killed by "enraged pilgrims". (The present minister of aviation is Mirwais Sadiq, son of Ismail Khan, the governor of Herat.) When also another Pashtun minister, Haji Abdul Qadir, was murdered unscrupulously in the middle of day in Kabul centre, while the Tajik guards of the ministry were assisting the assassins, Karzai’s reaction was to fire his own Defence Ministry bodyguards and replace them with American special troops. This was quite a sign of distrust and suspicion towards Fahim.

Abdul Qadir was among the most important Afghan supporters of the plan to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan’s Dauletabad gas fields to the Pakistani port of Gwadar. The pipeline was supposed to cross through Herat, Kabul, and (Abdul Qadir’s homefield) Nangarhar. The Russian gas giant Gazprom has been against the project. More recently, Gazprom has again started to promote the expensive underwater pipeline from Iran to India, which is simultaneously a blow into Pakistan’s back and securing that Central Asian gas would no longer be "needed" in the South, so that all Central Asia’s energy resources would stay under Russian control.


Fahim’s former ally, Yunus Qanuni, is a Tajik from Panjshir, was close to Massoud, Burhanuddin Rabbani’s apprentice and a former good anticommunist. Recently, however, he has increasingly taken distance to Fahim, and finally he has set up his own party, whose line seems to be mostly nostalgic praise of Massoud’s legacy. Western diplomats usually guess Qanuni is a rising star and perhaps even the next president. He acted as the minister of interior in the interim government, gaining praise from Europeans, but also raising bitterness among Kabul’s non-Tajik inhabitants, as his police chiefs took over the city’s mafia and started collecting blackmail and protection money especially from Pashtun entrepreneurs.

In the Loya Jirga, the Pashtuns had to give up one of the two power ministries, and as Fahim was in a position that made him impossible to remove, Qanuni had to sacrifice himself. As a consolation he was given, besides the post of minister of education, a post of security advisor, in which essence he continues to possess remarkable control over the Ministry of Interior’s affairs, especially the secret services. Fahim is controlling the Amaniyat, Security Council, which on its turn controls the power ministries.


Parallel to Karzai and the Panjshiri Tajiks, a kind of pseudo-opposition is being formed of Islamic conservatives, who seem an apparent opposition but who do not actually oppose Karzai or Fahim in reality. Their leading figure is the former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who also heads the Jamiat-i Islami.

People around Rabbani include both conservatives, like Sibghatullah Mojadedi and Mohseni, and questionable Islamists, like Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf and his allies, and recently Yunis Khalis. Rabbani enjoys remarkable popular support – nowadays surprisingly especially among the Pashtun population, because he is an Islamic conservative and because Karzai has lost his popularity by showing up as a puppet of the Tajik dominance. (Rabbani is an ethnic Tajik, however, and Karzai an ethnic Pashtun, and still some months before the Loya Jirga the patterns of support were contrary to what started to seem apparent during the Loya Jirga.) During the Loya Jirga, it may well be that Rabbani was in reality the single most popular politician of Afghanistan. In the Loya Jirga, he presented himself as a democrat, opposing the "romantic dictatorship" of Karzai and Fahim, and demanding, among other things, parliamentarian control over the government, and anyway a parliament to be set up in Afghanistan. These kinds of ideas do not please Fahim at all. The more democratic a parliamentary system Afghanistan will get in the future, the more power will be allocated to the Pashtun areas and Islamic conservatives, and the less to the ex-communists of Kabul, who now control more than 90 per cent of the administration.

A couple of weeks ago, an Afghan source told that Sayyaf is aligning himself with Yunis Khalis, and that this alliance would mobilise most of the former Taliban commanders into a new Islamist force. Yunis Khalis first belonged to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i Islami, until the party was split in two into the Hekmatyar wing and the Khalis wing. Khalis allied with the Taliban, and his right hand Mahmud was the person who invited Usama bin Ladin to Afghanistan in 1996. Bin Ladin was formally welcomed by Abdul Qadir. Khalis was accommodating Al Qaida’s terrorists in his own farm.

Sayyaf has been suspected to be a provocateur for a long time, and even an Al Qaida agent within the Northern Alliance. Suspecting him to have played an inside hand in Massoud’s assassination has been an even more popular conspiracy theory than suspecting Fahim. Behind Sayyaf one has seen the shadow of Saudi Arabia, like Russia has been seen behind Fahim. A former Pakistani civil servant estimated to me that Sayyaf might even be more dangerous than Hekmatyar, and more directly connected with Arab terrorists.


Most of the well-informed sources assume that Hekmatyar is presently in the company of Mullah Omar somewhere in the areas of Paktia, Paktika, Khost or Kunar. Possibly also the Arabs of Al Qaida are still in the same company, but this is much more uncertain. Despite the numerous rumours, Arabs seem to have vanished like ashes in wind – nothing to speak of all of the more hairy figures of the war-on-terror fairytales. The famous "Chechens" were already revealed to have actually been Uzbeks, but still Pakistani and Western newspapers, inspired by ignorant Afghans, continue to spread myths about "terrorists coming from Chechnya and other Central Asian republics", like The News wrote on 7th August.

Hekmatyar has practically no local support anywhere in Afghanistan, but he has a good network of agents and his contacts are still active with the secret services of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. Even the connection with Iraq is possible, although at least some part of the Iraqi connections might later show up to be US disinformation (according to a trustworthy source). During the spring and summer Hekmatyar’s agents have been shooting grenades and rockets against the Americans and ISAF in various parts of Afghanistan. He has also dumped into the market false money pressed in Russia.

Added on 11th Sept. 2002: Hekmatyar has been the main suspect for the 5th September 2002 bomb blast in Kabul centre that killed more than thirty people, and for the terror strikes that have been taking place in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan over the summer. Already in the spring the ISAF classified Hekmatyar as the security threat priority one, while Al Qaida and the Taliban were only on second and third places, and now the ISAF has publicly announced the same. The great question now remains: for whom is Hekmatyar nowadays working?

During the present administration in Kabul, it has been always fashionable to blame Pakistan always and for everything. It is thereby no wonder that the Tajik-led security administration again spreads the idea to the journalists that Hekmatyar would be working for the ISI. It has also been remarkable how, either of ignorance or of political convenience, members and supporters of the Tajik-led administration has eagerly orchestrated propaganda of Russian and Indian origin about Afghan extremists’ links to separatist resistance movements in Chechnya and Kashmir, and oppositions in the Central Asian republics.

However, it is very improbable that the ISI would be behind Hekmatyar. It is improbable that Hekmatyar would be working even for those elements within the ISI, that remain of the legacy of Hamid Gul and certain successors of his, and whom Pervez Musharraf’s regime has not yet cleansed. When the PPP and Benazir Bhutto came into power in Pakistan in 1993 for second time, Pakistan ceased support to Hekmatyar, who, in turn, felt most betrayed and bitter. At least since 1995 Hekmatyar has rather been an enemy of the ISI. During Benazir Bhutto’s government her minister of internal affairs Nasirullah Babar shifted the ISI’s support from Hekmatyar to the Taliban. And when Musharraf took over from Nawaz Sharif, the Taliban ceased to be backed by official Pakistan. Today, there would be absolutely no ratio for Pakistan to support destabilisation of Afghanistan by Hekmatyar. Pakistan’s primary national interest in Afghanistan has always been stability to ensure security of the western frontier and access to the opening market of Central Asia. These are not something Hekmatyar or his new jihad could provide for Musharraf’s Pakistan, which is America’s ally in the war on terrorism. The men who publicly boast to be fathers of the Taliban in Pakistan, Nasirullah Babar and Hamid Gul, are both fierce opponents of Musharraf.

In his book promised to be published in this year (which has still not appeared) the former KGB officer Vasily Mitrokhin confirms curious details about the Soviet intelligence policy in Afghanistan and the use of false flag provocateurs. According to Mitrokhin, "Soviet-trained Afghan guerrilla units posed as CIA-supported, anti-Soviet mujahidin rebels [Islamic freedom-fighters] to create confusion and flush out genuine rebels". In January 1983, there were 86 such "false bands", trained by KGB officer V. Kikot of the 8th Department of the "Directorate S". Kikot was transferred from Cuba, and was acquainted with training Palestinian terrorists. There were also over 110 agents infiltrated in Iran and over 200 agents in Pakistan, including Murtaza Bhutto, son of the former president and brother of the future prime minister. There has been reasonable suspicion that the fiercely anti-American Hekmatyar would have worked as a KGB provocateur from the very beginning, as was widely suspected by various Afghan factions.

Several researchers have assumed that the allocation of maybe up to 50 % of the CIA’s support in the Afghan jihad to Hekmatyar was due to KGB influence in the ISI, which channelled most of the American contribution. As seen by many contemporaries, Hekmatyar’s role in the jihad was highly dubious, since there are hardly any confirmed incidents of him being victorious against the Soviets, but instead, Hekmatyar gained notoriety for killing far more genuine mujahideen. Perhaps Hekmatyar was the most successful "strife-promoter" of all times of Afghan history. We all know the old Roman wisdom of "divide and rule", and at least some of us have read the brilliant Asterix comics album about the use of a provocateur, or "strife-promoter", against the Gallian separatists, led by the Gaul terrorists Asterix and Obelix…

All that we know about Hekmatyar’s activities in later 1990s refers to quite another direction than the ISI, although most probably Hekmatyar still has lots of contacts in Pakistan, too. After all, there has been no large-scale cleansing of KGB agents within Pakistani official establishment and security services. They are still out there, and it would not be a surprise that the present conspiracy theorist Hamid Gul would be one of them.

In 1993-1994, right after Pakistan had "betrayed" him, Hekmatyar was involved in provocations in the Caucasus – but of course not at all in Chechnya, but Azerbaijan, where he was serving the interests of the usurper and former KGB general Haidar Aliyev, who had ousted the democratically elected, pro-Turkish and secular President Ebülfez Ali Elchibey. Hekmatyar’s provocateurs have also been identified to have links with the Lezghin terrorist organisation Sadval, which has been backed by the Russian military intelligence GRU, responsible for much more of armed provocations in the Caucasus than the better known FSB, KGB’s direct heir.

Aliyev was undoubtedly one of the most important KGB leaders of the Andropov legacy of Moscow’s support for Islamist terrorists worldwide. I however suspect that later on, Aliyev (like also Yevgeny Primakov, Sergei Stepashin and Eduard Shevardnadze) might have belonged to the clique within the ex-Soviet intelligence establishment that was critical at the most loyal Andropovites (like Vladimir Putin, Sergei Ivanov and Anatoly Kulikov). At least later, having established his power in Baku, Aliyev started to show up a more defiant line towards the Kremlin. Besides this, it is noteworthy that in all the Caucasian provocations of the 1990s, the military intelligence GRU played a more crucial role than the FSB, though the latter may have had leading propaganda and disinformation role.

The GRU was responsible for recruitment of mercenaries and provocateurs to the Abkhazian war against Georgia. Among others, the notorious Chechen radicals Shamil and Shirvani Basayev and Ruslan Gelayev belonged to these troops recruited by the GRU. There was also an unknown Arab, Khattab, who is told to have fought in the Afghan jihad. Other sources maintain that the Basayev brothers would have met Khattab only in Abkhazia, from where he moved on to Dagestan, marrying an Avarian woman there, and later on as a provocateur to Chechnya to destabilise the regime of the moderate Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

A more commonly distributed interpretation is nowadays – following the time’s fashion of downplaying Russia’s role as much as possible – to claim that everything started with the Afghan jihad, where the ISI and the CIA were nastily fighting against the Soviet Union and creating monsters like Usama bin Ladin and the Taliban. No matter that the CIA actually never had anything to do with bin Ladin, and the Taliban got more of their money from Saudi Arabia than from Pakistan, and more of their weapons from Russia than from Pakistan. There are even claims that the Basayev brothers and Khattab would have first time met in Afghanistan, while being part of the voluntary jihadist groups recruited by Al Qaida, which was first run by Abdullah Azzam, and since 1989, by bin Ladin. Bin Ladin’s primary Afghan contact, as is well established by now, was Hekmatyar. No Taliban existed before 1994. The Abkhaz War took place in 1992-1993. Hekmatyar was involved in Azerbaijan in 1993-1994, and he was supported by Russian and Iranian intelligence. In 1994, Russia attacked Chechnya. What could the ISI have had to do with all this?

But let us for a second seriously consider the probable propaganda claim that the Basayev brothers would really have met Khattab in Afghanistan. Could this have happened already in the jihad of the 1980s, and in the troops of Hekmatyar? This would actually hint towards connections between Hekmatyar and the GRU rather than Hekmatyar and the KGB (in which case KGB defectors like Mitrokhin would probably not know enough of it). In the 1980s there was no substantial armed Chechen separatist movement. Instead, many of the prominent Chechen commanders were fighting as Soviet officers in the Afghanistan war, including the first President Dzhokhar Dudayev. At least Shirvani Basayev was serving the GRU during the Soviet time. Shamil Basayev was in the OMON troops of the Soviet Interior Ministry. Could the Basayevs have been on the mujahideen side as infiltrators? How else would it be possible for Soviet citizens to be fighting in Afghanistan on the enemy side?

Mainstream theories on Khattab suggest that he first time arrived the area of former Soviet Union in the Abkhaz War in 1992-1993. However, his background is indeed dusky and there is no reliable profile provided by an independent party. Many things rather point at the direction of a KGB or GRU agent in the Middle East. In this case it would no longer be a wonder that Khattab could speak fluent Russian as soon as he arrived in the Caucasus, and he seemed to have readily prepared local contacts both in Abkhazia and in Dagestan.

A Russian historian Aleksey Kudriavtsev (representing a Primakovite institute whose researchers probably share intelligence background) wrote that the Arab provocateurs in the North Caucasus had a solid connection with a "Chechen Wahhabist" Adam Deniyev, who would have been organising the "Wahhabi" movement in Chechnya. However, Deniyev was a known KGB agent and involved in the founding of the Soviet Islamist cover organisation IRP in Astrakhan in 1989. Deniyev was later murdered by the Chechen resistance activists and a reliable source says reason of the assassination was that Deniyev was a KGB agent. By then, the "Wahhabi" Deniyev was also working as a part of the pro-Moscow puppet regime of Chechnya, led by the former Islamist Ahmed Kadyrov and the professional criminal and Islamist Bislan Gantemirov – both picked up by Putin’s administration.

Throughout late 1990s, Hekmatyar was living in peace in Tehran, until in February 2002, Iran ordered him to disappear, probably due to the fact that the direct Al Qaida links of both Hekmatyar, the regime in Turkmenistan, and the Russian arms dealer Viktor But had become public. Hekmatyar returned to Afghanistan, where he has openly sided with the Taliban and calling on jihad against Americans. In spring, the CIA attempted to eliminate Hekmatyar by a missile launched from an unmanned spy plane, but failed. It is somewhat understandable that Hekmatyar’s links with former Soviet intelligence agencies are not being publicly discussed, but it is significant that the West has neither paid attention on his links with the Iranian intelligence. Orchestrating the propaganda about links with the ISI (and even CIA) only indicates deep level of ignorance in the post-Cold-War Western thinking.


When we speak about "warlords" in the Afghan context, we usually mean persons maintaining power somewhere outside Kabul in a certain territory, where they possess armed forces on their own, and where they control local resources and "tax" economic activities.

Historically Afghanistan was divided into seven great provinces, which all had their strong leaders. Only Mohammed Daud, who usurped power from his cousin King Zahir Shah, tried to transfer Afghanistan into a centralised state, and this was of course continued with much more and with harsher means by the communist rulers Nur Mohammed Taraki, Hafizullah Amin, Babrak Karmal, and Sayid Mohammed Najibullah. As we know, their attempts to make Afghanistan a centralised state ended up in a catastrophic failure. They tried to decrease the power of regional strongmen by splitting provinces into smaller and smaller until there were 32 of them. In reality, however, the historical provinces (7 + Kabul) are still very much alive, and they all have their own "strongman", a leader stronger than the other governors, governing a macro-province in the regional centre. The governors of the official small provinces are divided into those who are loyal to Kabul, those who are loyal to the regional leader, and those who try to balance between the two.

General Fahim is militarily dominant in Kabul, and also in the provinces of Parwan, Kapisa, Takhar and Badakhshan, at least. It is still a bit unclear for me, as I have not visited Kunduz, who is at the moment strongest in Kunduz and Baghlan, Dostum or Fahim. The governor appointed by Karzai, Ustad Atta Mohammed, who has been fighting Dostum, is a Tajik and a man of Fahim’s. Other close allies of Fahim include at least the espionage chief General Akbar, and Commander Daud Panjshiri. Panjshiri was reported to have led the questionable operation, where the Indian intelligence RAW is told to have "bought" from Fahim perhaps even hundreds of Taliban suspects (apparently mainly Pakistanis) captured in Kunduz, and lifted them by Russian planes through Tajikistan to India.


When the war on terrorism started, a young (only 19 or 20-year-old) Tajik commander of the Northern Alliance, General Atiqullah Baryalai Khan, was mentioned several times also in the Finnish news. Atiqullah was interviewed by Mika Parkkonen of the biggest Finnish daily, Helsingin Sanomat, as "Atikula Barialeikan" (HS, 14th Oct. 2001), and later by Hufvudstadsbladet. (corrected - 23.6.2004.) Probably Atiqullah was a very convenient person to be interviewed as he spoke reasonable English, was young, non-bearded, westernised and apparently either photogenic or otherwise interesting as a personality. However, in Kabul I have met even a 14-year-old Tajik "commander" of the Northern Alliance. As well, I remember seeing a Tajik teenager with the title of "commander" in a Reader’s Digest article on child warriors, but having not saved the article, I cannot know whether it was the same kid whom I met selling war souvenirs in the legendary Chicken Street of Kabul. Atiqullah remained in my files because he had told the journalist that Russia had in fact not provided the largely claimed massive support for the struggle against the Taliban along the years, but that Massoud’s army had been paying dearly for everything.

Later Atiqullah gave another interview, which at least the journalist interpreted so that Russia is indeed supporting Shura-ye Nazar through Tajikistan. (Shura-ye Nazar used to be the jihad dimension of the political force Jamiat-i Islami of President Rabbani.) But then again, in a third article I saw about Atiqullah, he let us understand that Russia had only maintained the Panjshiri Tajiks as a buffer preventing the Taliban to threaten Tajikistan’s borders, but nothing more, so that the Tajiks of Afghanistan could also not become strong enough to stabilise the situation, let alone intervene in Tajikistan. The Tajiks in the former Soviet Union have their own Islamist organisation, comparable with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), namely the Tajik Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is active in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. At least the Russian propaganda stubbornly claims Hizb ut-Tahrir is somehow linked with the Taliban and Al Qaida, although links with the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan would be more probable for the genuine Tajik Islamic opposition that used to confront the communist regime supported by Russia. In Tajikistan, the other known Islamist organisation was the Soviet Islamist IRP (Islamic Revival Party), whose umbrella was formed under KGB surveillance in Astrakhan (North Caspia) in 1989. The Tajik IRP leader Abdullah Nuri was probably a KGB provocateur from the very beginning.

So far it has been a bit unclear to me, whether Atiqullah Baryalai Khan is another man of Fahim’s, or whether he is a true representative of Massoud’s legacy who either of genuine honesty or of lack of experience and cynicism gives a more questionable picture of Russia’s sincerity than Fahim and his protégés in the present Kabul security apparatus. Today, Atiqullah works as a deputy minister of defence as well as heads the disarmament programme.


The Uzbek General Abdurrashid Dostum (Abdul Rashid Dostum) is ruling an area that covers at least all the countryside from Sheberghan (in Faryab) to somewhere around Kunduz. Dostum is a former communist and the king of Afghanistan’s turncoats. When Massoud liberated Kabul in a bloodless take-over in 1992, and Najibullah gave up power, Dostum subsequently started to ruin Kabul, in times with Russian and Uzbekistani support, in times in an alliance with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Dostum lost the control of Mazar-i-Sharif, his headquarters and the capital of Balkh, when his earlier Uzbek ally, General Abdulmalik (Abdul Malik, or General Malik) defected to the Taliban. Still it needs to be remembered that also Dostum himself was in times aligned with the Taliban, for instance against Ismail Khan and Massoud when the Taliban conquered Herat.

Because of Dostum’s chronic and pathological unreliability, Massoud could not stand him. Massoud also had a categorical and understandable disgust for Soviet Afghan leaders. As a result, while Massoud was making his European tour in 2001, seeking the support of the European Union in Strasbourg, the former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and the vice commander Mohammed Fahim made a deal with Dostum behind Massoud’s back, and when Massoud returned from Europe, he was waited in Faizabad by "Brother Dostum". Massoud had stayed, and did stay until his death, loyal to Rabbani, but apparently the loyalty was not always mutual.

Finding Dostum welcoming him in Faizabad, Massoud was put in a most awkward situation, and he could not of course reject Dostum’s offer of alliance, as this would have sent a most awkward message to the wished supporters in Europe. Besides, whether Massoud wanted it or not, the Northern Alliance, in the lack of proper Western support, had become dependent on the support of Russia and India. The support of the former enemy Russia, as well as the Indian support, was channelled through Tajikistan, while Dostum was also receiving substantial Russian (and perhaps Turkish) support through Uzbekistan. Moreover, Russia was channelling substantial but secret support also to the Taliban, both through Turkmenistan and through the organisation of the KGB officer and arms dealer Viktor But. That was dividing and ruling par excellence. All this was entirely and purposefully ignored by Western intelligence, as pointed out by the former CIA agent Robert Baer. Dostum had got more massive Russian support than the Tajiks of Panjshir, and this meant Dostum had perhaps the most modern army of Afghanistan – although, due to chronic internal disunity and weak fighting morals of Dostum and his commanders, Dostum’s war achievements usually stopped as soon as the boundaries of Uzbek-majority areas were crossed.

When the war on terror started, Dostum hoped he could march first, besides Mazar-i-Sharif and Kunduz, to Kabul, too, and he was very bitter when Fahim’s troops were the first to liberate Kabul. Nowhere else in the Northern Alliance territory the incidents and events went as obnoxious as in those controlled by Dostum’s troops. Even the EU observers found concentration camps and mass-graves in Dostum’s territories, and publicly suspected that Dostum had purposefully had killed hundreds or even thousands of captured Taliban prisoners in Kunduz and Sheberghan, in order to not leave witnesses. In 2002, Dostum’s troops continued to commit repeated heinous acts against human rights, especially against Pashtuns and Hazaras.

When Karzai appointed a Tajik governor, Ustad Atta Mohammed, to Mazar, Dostum attempted several times to seize Mazar, and for example when Dostum’s troops had once entered the city using the pretext of the independence day parade, they refused to vacate the city, until supposedly persuaded to do so by a deal brokered by the United States between General Dostum and General Atta. The deal did not last long, as again right after the Loya Jirga Dostum attacked fiercely against both Atta’s Tajik troops, and the troops of Karim Khalili, the Hazara general governing in Bamiyan, resulting that about one thousand people were forced to leave their homes as internally displaced persons or as refugees to Pakistan. Repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons belonging to the Pashtun minority of the North has not been possible in territories controlled by Dostum.


The Tajik (or Persian) commander Mohammed Ismail Khan is governing all Western Afghanistan in Herat, the centre of the West of the country. Ismail Khan was the strongman of the area already before the Taliban, but after the Taliban had conquered the area and captured Herat, he fled to Iran. From Iran, he returned to attempt a counteroffensive against the Taliban, but was instead captured by them. He, however, escaped from Taliban imprisonment from Kandahar in a mysterious way, supposedly released by Taliban insiders or even commanders who had defected from the movement due to that time’s wide internal strives within the Taliban. Ismail Khan again returned to his exile in Iran, from where he again returned to Afghanistan, when the war on terror began, and captured back Herat in an almost bloodless operation.

There are lots of contradictory information about Ismail Khan, but having met him now a couple of times, I would indeed consider him as an Islamic conservative, but not at all the kind of fundamentalist Islamist that for example the Lahore-based Pakistani leftist journalist Ahmed Rashid painted of him this spring, spreading disinformation about a newly imposed burkha law and things like that. Rashid’s context is more or less the Pakistani left-wing party PPP and the red clue of most of his texts is disgust towards political Islam, but even against Islamic conservatism. On the other hand, Ismail Khan is a cunning and skilful regional leader, who is capable of balancing his game between different forces – now between Kabul, Washington and Tehran. He is not the most problematic of the Afghan warlords, although he probably is the strongest outside Kabul, and he will probably not voluntarily give up any of his power or the relative independence of Herat.

Iran is known to have armed and equipped Ismail Khan’s army, and Iran has in Herat a double representation reflecting well the internal division of Iranian political establishment: On the other hand there is the embassy run by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, where the moderate reformist Khatamites prevail, but on the other hand there is the presence of the security services, military intelligence and Pasdaran, which are entirely controlled by the hard-line conservative clergy.

During the spring and summer 2002, Ismail Khan has been fighting repeatedly against at least three other warlords. In March, the governor of Kandahar appointed by Karzai, Gul Agha Sherzai (General Gul Agha, a Pashtun from the Sherzai tribe), set off a "punitive offensive" against Ismail Khan, resulting fierce battles fought in Helmand. They ended, according to diplomatic sources, when the US paid to the belligerents for being quiet. During the summer, Ismail Khan has been warring against those governors of the region he considers as his, who are ethnic Pashtuns and oppose Ismail Khan’s hegemony in West Afghanistan. When writing this, the last battles have been in Shindand (in Southern Herat province) between Ismail Khan and Shindand’s warlord Amanullah Khan. Other battles have been against another Pashtun warlord, Mohammed Karim Khan, who controls the Zar Koh area.

Ismail Khan, and Heratis in general, nowadays emphasise their being Persians, and call their language Farsi, not Dari. Sometimes the Heratis are considered a distinct ethnic group, the "Parsiwans", in distinction from the Tajiks of North and Northeast Afghanistan. The differences between Farsi, Dari, and the Tajik spoken in the former Soviet Central Asia, are relatively small, and boundaries between them are not clear, so that it could also be argued that these languages are actually Persian dialects rather than distinct languages, although people living in the extreme ends of the chain may have difficulties in understanding each other and many words get different meanings.


The governor of Kandahar, Gul Agha, has risen his profile and during the latest times he has started to advocate more clearly a Pashtun policy, also adopting a more critical stand on the United States. After the latest bombing that accidentally targeted a wedding party, Gul Agha demanded that the US should first get permission from the regional leaders for all their operations. He also started to gather a new alliance of South Afghanistan’s Pashtun commanders to be loyal to himself. Several governors of the provinces surrounding Kandahar have appeared good vassals in courting all criticism raised by Gul Agha.

President Karzai’s brother Ahmed Karzai is acting as the president’s representative in Kandahar, and has recently become a popular commentator. Some time ago Ahmed Karzai claimed that behind the local conflicts of southern Afghanistan lies General Fahim’s intrigues, aimed at harming the relations between Pashtuns and the US.


The "iron grandpa" Padshah Khan Zadran, 87-year-old former truck driver and the most powerful warlord of Southeast Afghanistan (Paktia, Khost, and Paktika), announced himself as a greatest friend and ally of the US in the war on terrorism, and behind him, there is the powerful Zadran tribe of Pashtuns. However, Padshah Khan’s manoeuvres earned him much of questionable reputation, when he made the US bomb the car convoy of a rival tribal chief by claiming there were Al Qaida men. He has been behind a lot of more disinformation, too – including the tales about "Chechens" among the Taliban. (Yet today, not a single Chechen has been found in Afghanistan, or linked anyhow with Al Qaida.)

Padshah Khan tried to reserve for himself the post of governor of Paktia, but the tribal elders ruling in Paktia’s capital Gardez prevented Padshah Khan’s march to Gardez, raised militia against him and expelled him and his relatives from Gardez. Karzai appointed a new governor to Paktia from the rival Pashtun tribe of Wardaks, Taj Mohammed Wardak. Taj Mohammed was among Karzai’s trusted men, and probably the Wardaks were also politically close to the ruling Pashtun leaders of the nearby bunch of provinces in East Afghanistan (Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman, Nuristan). The strongest of the latter was the governor of Nangarhar, vice president and minister of public works Haji Abdul Qadir, who was murdered in Kabul in early July.

Abdul Qadir’s brother Abdul Haq was captured and executed by the Taliban in the beginning of the war on terrorism. Before this, Abdul Haq had been the primary candidate for the US to become Afghanistan’s leader. Karzai was his obvious alternative, when Abdul Haq martyred. Abdul Haq is now another official national hero after Massoud, and also the brother Abdul Qadir joined the row of heroic martyrs when he died as a victim of assassination. The third member of the series of brothers, Din Muhammad, followed Abdul Qadir to become governor of Nangarhar. At first, the military commander of Jalalabad, capital of Nangarhar, called Hazrat Ali, set up against Din Muhammad. General Hazrat Ali had earlier confronted Abdul Qadir, and was even considered as one of the suspects for his murder. Besides General Hazrat Ali, the brothers’ enemies included the clan of Shomali Khan.

All the brothers Abdul Haq, Abdul Qadir and Din Muhammad have been stout anticommunists. After the appointment of Din Muhammad, Karzai also nominated new governors for the minor provinces in Nangarhar’s sphere of influence: Munshi Abdulmajid, who acted as minister of internal affairs in the Rabbani government in mid-1990s, became governor of Logar; Sayed Mohammed Yusuf Shahjan became governor of Kunar; and Ibrahim Babakarkhel became governor of Laghman. When Taj Mohammed Wardak became minister of internal affairs, Karzai appointed the former judge Qazi Raaz Mohammed Dalili to be governor of Paktia.

After the Loya Jirga the relations between the two Pashtun tribes grew ever tenser, as Karzai also fired the minister Amanullah Zadran, while two Wardaks were appointed ministers in the new government: the Nangarhar Governor Taj Mohammed Wardak became interior minister, and Abdullah Wardak became the minister of martyrs and disabled. Also on the provincial level there was a tendency of pressuring Zadrans out of governor posts, while Wardaks and other trusted men of Karzai’s were appointed. Padshah Khan set out for an open rebellion. He tried to capture Gardez twice, and shot rockets to the town, killing at least 80 people. Karzai ordered Padshah Khan to be arrested for murder. Padshah Khan has not been able to gain control over Paktia, but has instead lost most of it. Instead, he has taken refuge in the mountains of Paktika and especially Khost, where he is sovereign. He has claimed a position of a "general governor" or regional leader, similar to the position of Ismail Khan and Dostum, including the right to appoint governors of Paktia, Paktika and Khost.

Padshah Khan’s young brother Kamal Khan Zadran, who is only 28-year-old (this makes me suspect that they are not really brothers), managed to capture the capital town of Khost, and the governor’s palace, from the weak Governor Hakim Taniwal, who was appointed by Karzai. Kamal Khan since acted as an unrecognised governor of Khost. The armed forces of Padshah Khan and his "brother" have been estimated at lowest to several hundreds and at most even six thousand men. Padshah Khan has claimed a Pashtun cause and demands Karzai to resign in favour of King Zahir Shah. Zahir Shah, however, has been clear to reject Padshah Khan’s claims and called him "an enemy of peace".

Finally, it can be noticed as an apex of sarcasm that the former communist artillery general Shahnawaz Tanai, who led a failed Khalq coup against the Parcham communist leader Najibullah together with Hekmatyar, was once instrumental in building up the military capacity for both Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i Islami and the Taliban, and who finally defected to Pakistan, has started to criticise all parties and founded "Peace Movement of Afghanistan".