Abdul Rashid Dostum
Abdul Rashid 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. He joined the Afghan military in 1978, fighting against the Afghan mujahideen throughout the 1980s. He fought in coalition with Ahmad Shah Masoud of the Northern Alliance against Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in 1992. The Taliban captured Kabul in 1996, forcing Dostum to retreat to Mazar-i-Sharif. When his second-in-command joined the Taliban in 1997, Dostum left Afghanistan and went to Turkey.
He is the leader of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan and he is well known for switching sides.
By the mid 1980s his platoon had grown in stature, reaching a company level by at least 1987 and a regimental level, Regiment 734, by 1988. 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 2001.
He left the army after the purge of Parchamis, and returned after the Soviet occupation began, commanding a militia battalion that became a regiment and ultimately was incorporated into the defense foces as the 53rd Infantry Division, but reporting directly to President Mohammad Najibullah. He then joined the Ministry of State Security and became commander of unit 374 in Jowzjan.
He defended the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the United States-backed mujahideen in the 1980s. Although he was only a regional commander, he had largely raised the militia he fought with on his own.
The Jowzjani militia, as it became known, was one of the few militia forces to be used outside of its region. They were deployed in Qandahar in 1988 when Soviet forces withdrew. He also supported the Gorbachev-era Communist reforms in Afghanistan.
On April 18, 1992, he revolted against the government of President Najibullah, allying with Ahmed Shah Massoud. Together, they captured Kabul, the Afghan capital. He commanded the principal militia force in Kabul that ousted Najibullah, creating episodes of kidnapping, looting and fighting.
In 1994, Dostum again switched sides, allying with forces of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in once more laying siege on Kabul, this time against the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani and Massoud.
In 1996, following the rise of the Taliban and their capture of Herat and Kabul, Dostum realigned himself with Rabbani against the Taliban. Along with General Mohammed Fahim and Ismail Khan, Dostum was one of three factional leaders that comprised the Afghan Northern Alliance. Facing capture and death by Taliban forces, Dostum fled to Turkey as an exile.
General Malik, who was a subordinate of Dostum, revolted against Dostum in May 1997 and joined hands with the Taliban. Much similar to other northern alliance groups, Dostum also had infighting within his group. Differences between Dostum and Malik over power had reached the height in which Malik decided to assist the Taliban in Mazar-i-Sharif to topple Dostum. Dostum fled the country and escaped to Turkey, thus leaving the power in Malik’s hands. By this time, the Taliban had gathered thousands of troops in Mazar, at Malik’s insistence for help. However, now that Dostum had left, Malik switched sides again and obtained the assistance of the Hezbe Wahdat. Thus Malik handed thousands of Taliban, many in their teens, over to the Hezbe Wahdat. Over six to eight thousand Talibs lost their lives due to Malik’s betrayal.
A few years later, the Taliban finally managed to overrun Malik’s group. Malik first escaped to Iran for sanctuary and later choose to make Washington DC his permanent residence. Later Malik once again left Washington and is currently believed to be living in Iran.
Abdul Rashid Dostum returned from his exile in Turkey in the April of 2001. Masood had funded Dostum to come and open a Western front in a campaign against the Taliban. In November of 2001 and against the wishes of the CIA a team including Johnny Micheal Spann landed to set up communications in the Dariya Suf. A few hours later 23 men of ODA 595 landed to begin the war.
In November of 2002, Atta and the Tajik elements began to spread rumors about a massacre to journalists. Unnamed witnesses claimed that Dostum jailed and tortured prisoners transferred from Kunduz to the prison in Sheberghan. Three thousand prisoners who surrendered to Dostum’s soldiers after the siege of Kunduz were forced into sealed containers and loaded onto trucks for transport to Sheberghan prison. When the prisoners began shouting for air, Dostum’s soldiers fired directly into the truck, killing many of them. The rest suffered through an appalling road trip lasting up to four days, so thirsty they clawed at the skin of their fellow prisoners as they licked perspiration and even drank blood from open wounds.
Witnesses say that when the trucks arrived and soldiers opened the containers, most of the people inside were dead. They also say US Special Forces re-directed the containers carrying the living and dead into the desert and stood by as survivors were shot and buried. Now, up to three thousand bodies lie buried in a mass grave.
In March 2003, Dostum established a North Zone of Afghanistan, against the wishes of interim president Hamid Karzai. In the aftermath of the Taliban’s removal from northern Afghanistan, forces loyal to Dostum frequently clashed with forces loyal to Tajik General Mohammed Atta. 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.
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.
On March 1, 2005 President Hamid Karzai appointed him Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, although it is unclear whether this position has any real power. On May of 2007, Dostum boasted that he can raise an army numbered at 10,000 and crush the Taliban insurgency, stating, “Then you would see what would happen in six months.”