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

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rashid Dostum for... counterinsurgent in Uruzgan?

One more brief post today. A good occasion to update my Uruzgan Series.
So an Australian daily, the Herald Sun, more exactly a correspondent of theirs, Sasha Uzunov, has just put out this about whom Australian troops should fall back on, if the going gets too tough in Uruzgan, Afghanistan. Excerpts follow.
"The political logic was that the public and media would accept SAS casualties rather than a young infantryman, fresh out of home or from a small country town. That political priority seems to remain. But political logic does not necessarily make good military sense, and vice-versa. In East Timor, the pro-Indonesian militia tried to inflict as many casualties as possible on our infantry units, including battalions made up of many reserve soldiers, in the hope that Australia would withdraw.
The moral of the story is, no matter how hard the Australian Government tries to insulate our infantry from combat by using the SAS, the unexpected happens.
I recently interviewed elusive Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the former warlord who helped the US remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001. Dostum claims he can defeat the Taliban, but his offer has been ignored by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
This former leader of the Northern Alliance claims he has a 5000-man militia just itching to go down south and take on the Taliban.
If a hardened force of 5000 militia were to be introduced to Oruzgan province, it could make an important impact on a determined enemy."
These of course wouldn't really be "local" or "indigenous" boots, whichever term milspeak with a colonial touch would prefer to use, coming as they would be from up north. Well, to clarify this, neither is the ANA staffed with truely only local boots in southern Afghanistan. But still it's rather going to be ANA that will do the job. I think of Dostum's offer just what GOA said about the idea of Iraqis going to Afghanistan back when that came up. (GOA stands NOT for Government of Afghanistan in this case.)
But it's interesting that Dostum gets some attention from the media in the positive sense for a change. Up till now only blogs like Afghanistanica have been critical of the general tendency of Dostum-bashing. Another example is the great academic deconstructor of falsehoods shamelessly spread about Dostum: Brian Glyn Williams. See the latters' worthy and informative takes on the subject. Now I'll just link to what you may want to read:
here (BGW discussing the Akbar Bai story as the latest betrayal of Dostum in a long series, this time by his Turk "küçük" brother and former campaign manager at the last Afghan presidentials);
here (Afghanistanica discussing the power struggles going on at the time in Dostum's home Jowzjan province);
here (BGW, writing for the Central Eurasian Studies Review, discusses the origins of how Dostum became misrepresented - from page 2 to 7).
You can now go and satisfy your hunger for stories on the great future Uruzgani Taliban-smasher (irony alert again).
One last remark. When I raised the issue that I don't know why the guy is despised so much in some Western circles as the epitome of a "warlord," to an expert of Afghan affairs here in Hungary, Magda Katona, she simply said it's because Dostum is a Marxist. She might have a point there, although I don't think that's all there is to this.
Alright, no more food for thought for dinner. I'm off.
Update: I shouldn't quit blogging so fast for today. You should also check out this documentary about Dostum (available in several parts), prepared by Brian Glyn Williams. Also, read Antonio Giustozzi's study of the Junbesh-e-Milli - Dostum's party/army.

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