Afghan VP Dostum to return after more than a year in exile

Dostum (left) left Afghanistan in May 2017 after he was accused of organizing the rape and torture of a political rival. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Afghan VP Dostum to return after more than a year in exile

  • The powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former warlord is linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan
  • Dostum’s return comes amid violent protests in several provinces across northern Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum is expected to return to Kabul Sunday, more than a year after fleeing the country during an investigation into the rape and torture of a political rival.
The powerful ethnic Uzbek leader and former warlord, who is linked to a catalogue of human rights abuses in Afghanistan, will fly from Turkey to Kabul where he will be welcomed by high-ranking officials at a special ceremony, Afghan officials said.
“At 4:00 p.m. (1130 GMT) today General Dostum’s flight will land at Kabul international airport,” Jamal Nasir Farahmand, a spokesman for Dostum, told AFP.
Dostum’s return, which has been the subject of much speculation, comes amid violent protests in several provinces across northern Afghanistan — his traditional power base.
Thousands of Dostum’s supporters have taken to the streets in recent weeks, shuttering election and government offices and blocking sections of highways, demanding the release of a pro-government militia leader and calling for Dostum’s return.
Observers say President Ashraf Ghani gave the green light for Dostum to come back to Afghanistan to quell the unrest.
Dostum left Afghanistan in May 2017 after he was accused of organizing the rape and torture of a political rival.
He had denied the allegations and said his departure was for medical check-ups and family reasons.
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, described Dostum as a “known killer” in 2009. Yet he chose the ethnic Uzbek to be his running mate in the 2014 presidential election, underlining the ethnic realities of Afghan politics.
Dostum’s return from exile comes ahead of the 2019 presidential election that Ghani, who is deeply unpopular among non-Pashtuns, is widely expected to contest.
Presidential spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said Saturday that Dostum had been “treated” and would resume his duties upon his return.
Seven of Dostum’s bodyguards have been convicted of the sexual assault and illegal imprisonment of Ahmad Ishchi, a former governor of northern Jowzjan province, in 2016.
Dostum allegedly had Ishchi abducted in Jowzjan and then kept him hostage in his private compound for several days, where the captive was said to have been tortured and sodomised.
Chakhansuri deflected questions about whether Dostum would face charges over the incident, saying “the judiciary is an independent body, the government does not interfere in their decisions.”
Dostum is one of several controversial figures that Kabul has sought to reintegrate into mainstream politics since the US-led invasion in 2001.
His heroic status in the north belies the extreme barbarities he is known for.
Dostum, who helped the United States oust the Taliban regime in 2001, allegedly allowed hundreds of Taliban prisoners to be suffocated to death in shipping containers.


Car bomb attack kills eight security force members in Afghanistan’s south

Updated 27 min 11 sec ago
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Car bomb attack kills eight security force members in Afghanistan’s south

  • The bomber detonated an explosives-packed car close to the governor’s convoy on a major highway between Logar and the capital Kabul
  • Logar is vulnerable to attacks due to the Taliban’s active presence in most areas of the province

KABUL: A car bomb attack on a convoy of the governor of Afghanistan’s southern Logar province killed at least eight Afghan security force members on Sunday morning but left the provincial chief unharmed, local officials said.
Shahpoor Ahmadzai, the spokesman for Logar’s provincial police, said the bomber detonated an explosives-packed car close to the governor’s convoy on a major highway between Logar and the capital Kabul.
“Unfortunately 10 others are wounded, and the number of casualties may rise” Ahmadzai said, adding that the provincial chief of the country’s intelligence agency was also in the convoy but unhurt in the attack.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said in a statement that the group was responsible for the blast and that a “large number” of Afghan special forces had been killed or wounded.
Logar, located around 75 kilometers from Kabul, is known as a strategic gateway to the capital and is vulnerable to attacks due to the Taliban’s active presence in most areas of the province.
The militant group have ramped up attacks in strategic provinces in recent months in their battle to expel foreign forces, topple the Western-backed government and restore their version of hardline Islamic law, even as peace talks with the United States ramp up.