Exiled Afghan Vice President Dostum due to return home on Sunday

Afghan General Abdul Rashid Dostum speaks during an interview with Reuters. (Reuters)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Exiled Afghan Vice President Dostum due to return home on Sunday

  • Dostum would return home on a chartered aircraft
  • Accusations against him would be handled independently by the courts

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who left the country last year amid allegations of sexual abuse and torture, will return home on Sunday after more than a year in exile and resume his duties, officials said.
Government spokesman Haroon Chakansuri confirmed on Saturday that Dostum would return home on a chartered aircraft on Sunday and would be given an official reception. Accusations against him would be handled independently by the courts, he said.
“Legal issues are a matter for judicial authorities,” the spokesman told a news conference in Kabul.
The return of Dostum followed days of sometimes violent protests by supporters in northern Afghanistan over the arrest of a militia commander loyal to him. Officials said that negotiations for the return have been going on for weeks.
Chakansuri also said the commander, Nizamuddin Qaisari, who was arrested after a violent dispute with security officials in the northern province of Faryab, would stay in prison pending an investigation, while other militia commanders accused of abuses would be pursued.
Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek veteran of decades of Afghanistan’s bloody politics, faced outrage from Western donor countries including the United States after reports in 2016 that his guards had seized Ahmad Eshchi, a political rival and subjected him to beatings, torture and violent sexual abuse.
He denied Eshchi’s accusations but amid international demands that he be held accountable, he left the country in May last year, ostensibly to seek medical treatment in Turkey and has not returned since.
Once described by the US State Department as a “quintessential warlord” Dostum has for years faced accusations of serious human rights abuses, including killing Taliban prisoners by leaving them in sealed cargo containers.
He joined President Ashraf Ghani in the disputed 2014 elections, helping to deliver support from the ethnic Uzbek community in northern Afghanistan and his return from exile comes ahead of the next presidential election in early 2019.
Dostum’s expected return adds to an already volatile mix ahead of separate parliamentary elections in October that are seen as a dry run for the more important presidential elections next year.
Protesters calling for his return closed a number of voter registration offices and threatened to disrupt the parliamentary ballot, seen as a key test of Afghanistan’s political stability.
While in exile, he formed a loose coalition with Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful former governor of Balkh province with wide support among ethnic Tajiks as well as Mohammad Mohaqiq, a leader of the Hazara minority.


Korean border troops check removal of each other’s posts

Updated 17 min 30 sec ago
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Korean border troops check removal of each other’s posts

  • The two Koreas have each dismantled or disarmed 11 of their guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone that forms their 248-km-long, 4-km -wide border
  • The Demilitarized Zone was originally created as a buffer between the countries at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War

INSIDE THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE: Dozens of South Korean soldiers visited former front-line North Korean guard posts on Wednesday to verify their recent removal as part of warming diplomacy by the rival Koreas while US-North Korea nuclear disarmament efforts remain stalled.
The two Koreas have each dismantled or disarmed 11 of their guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone that forms their 248-kilometer (155-mile) -long, 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) -wide border. The removals will leave South Korea with about 50 other DMZ posts and North Korea with 150, according to defense experts in South Korea.
A small group of journalists was allowed to enter the zone to watch a South Korean team leave for a North Korean guard post on Wednesday morning to verify its destruction. North Korean teams wre also going to verify the work on the South Korean side of the zone later Wednesday.
Seven helmeted South Korean soldiers wearing backpacks, one carrying a camera and another a camcorder, approached the line separating the north and south sides of the DMZ. North Korean troops then walked in a row down a hill to meet them. The soldiers from the rival Koreas exchanged handshakes before moving up the hill together to go to the dismantled North Korean guard post.
Other groups of South Korean soldiers were simultaneously visiting 10 other North Korean guard posts. They inspected whether the guard posts and any underground structures have been completely dismantled and whether all troops, weapons and other equipment have been withdrawn, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.
The Demilitarized Zone was originally created as a buffer between the countries at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. But contrary to its name, the DMZ has become the world’s most heavily fortified frontier after the rival Koreas planted an estimated 2 million mines, deployed combat troops and heavy weapons and set up layers of barbed wire fences.
When the leaders of the Koreas met in Pyongyang in September, they agreed to lower military tensions along their border, including the withdrawal of some DMZ guard posts, halting live-fire exercises near the border, demilitarizing their shared border village of Panmunjom and removing mines at a DMZ area to launch joint searches for Korean War dead.
Conservatives in South Korea have criticized the deals, saying Seoul shouldn’t have agreed to such conventional arms reduction programs because North Korea’s nuclear threat remains unchanged.
US-led nuclear diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear program has reported little progress since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump met for a summit in Singapore in June. North Korea has made a vague disarmament pledge, and some experts say the North’s turn to diplomacy after last year’s string of weapons tests is aimed to weaken US-led sanctions.