What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Baghlan's special warlords

Joshua Foust has recently posted a review of Dana Priest's book titled The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military, and in a couple of his paragraphs attention is paid to a remarkable incident back in 2001 when the Ismaili militia of Sayed Jafar Naderi tried in vain to take Pul-i-Khumri from Northern Alliance units that moved into the town. They tried to do so most likely with the, willing or reluctant, help of U.S. special forces and "all the air above them" (I can't seem to quit my addiction to using that term - referring to close air support called in by the SFs). That and the rest of the review is pretty interesting. The only thing I'd take issue with is that I'm not really sure if Pul-i-Khumri was Jafar Naderi's old home as such. He comes from the Kayan valley in Doshi district, Baghlan province. And back in the times when he and his dad, Sayed Mansur Naderi (now a member of the Wolesi Jirga, the National Assembly, in Kabul) used to rule in Baghlan, the provincial capital still used to be Baghlan city. E.g. the interesting Statoid project puts the time of the administrative decision of merging Baghlan and Pul-i-Khumri provinces to 1964, and the move to make Pul-i-Khumri the new capital of the united province to after 1996.
However, Ismailis live in significant numbers in Pul-i-Khumri, too, so I can't say for sure that Jafar Naderi hasn't ever lived there for a longer time, or if already as a young governor in the early 1990s he didn't wield his power from over there. Ismailis are in fact important to understanding why Pul-i-Khumri is claimed to have a Tajik majority. Ismailis in many cases are taken into account as a non-ethnic group, as "just a religious group" (they are sevener Shiites), and are counted as mostly... Well, this is a bit complicated, you see. One source I know says that Ismailis in Baghlan are "mostly Tajikicised," another that they are "mostly" from a "Tajik background." For as much as political reality matters they are of course distinct players (it should matter a lot of course). Getting back to Jafar Naderi, he came back from the U.S. to lead Ismaili Defence Forces at his father's instruction in the 1980s. Here's an excerpt from a documentary I'd very much like to get hold of, titled "Warlord of Kayan." You'll see the honourable Sayed riding a motorbike and doing other interesting stuff.
The video was deleted from Liveleak. It is up there on You Tube, though, link provided here.

As you could have guessed in advance, my favourite line from the vid is: "We deal with both sides in Afghanistan. Our defence force controls a part of the highway in Salaang. So the government troops can move freely. Our defence force also controls the old road to Kabul. So the mujahedeen can get their supplies." That's just so... So something one likes to draw the attention to, in a blogpost, of oneself and of the others, for a little insight. Orientalists beware: that's a former McDonald's employee and former heavy metal drummer right there putting it square to you, back in 1989.

In 2001 things didn't turn out so smartly for him. Even the air above (as much as he exactly got of that) wasn't enough to keep the Northern Alliance from defeating him. He was chased back to his village apparently, according to these two articles (article 1; article 2) that Joshua linked to in the NYT, that I haven't read before, and which I very much recommend for everyone to read.

It would be interesting to know more of how exactly he's faring nowadays, but one gets very little in the way of precise information of that kind from Baghlan.
I'd be equally thrilled to hear about how Afghanistan's famous female warlord, Bibi Ayesha (from Darisujan valley, Narin district, Baghlan province) is faring, but there's no word about that, either.

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