Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dostum, a former warlord who was once America’s man in Afghanistan, may be back --- KABUL — He was America’s ally, a stocky, gray-haired warlord who fought on horseback alongside U.S. Special Forces to overthrow the Taliban government in 2001. But within three years, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum had so antagonized U.S. officials that they sent a B-1 bomber to buzz his house. -- Now, after several years out of the spotlight, Dostum may again assume a central role in Afghan politics. He is a vice-presidential candidate on the ticket of former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, one of two front-runners in the election. -- The return of a strongman known for brutal, reckless behavior would be a troubling development for the U.S. government, which has spent billions of dollars trying to build a stable democracy in Afghanistan. As recently as 2009, American officials tried to block Dostum from returning to Kabul from a stint abroad. Then-U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry warned that Dostum’s presence would “endanger much of the progress made in Afghanistan.” -- This time around, U.S. officials are taking no public stance on the swaggering former militia leader, hoping to avoid the appearance of meddling in Afghanistan’s election. People close to Ghani’s campaign say U.S. officials did not try to prevent him from choosing Dostum. --- Such a hands-off approach is a stark departure from past U.S. policy. Interviews with former American and Afghan officials, along with presidential palace documents and State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, have revealed the lengths to which the U.S. government has gone to influence and then sideline Afghanistan’s “quintessential warlord,” as the State Department once described Dostum. -- As the senior of two vice presidents, Dostum would exert considerable power. When the Afghan president travels overseas, the vice president becomes acting president and can make decisions and sign decrees.- More, Joshua Partlow, Washingtonpost


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