Abdul Rashid Dostum
Abdul Rashid Dostum (/ˈɑːbdəl rəˈʃiːd
doʊsˈtuːm/ ( listen) AHB-dəl rə-SHEED dohs-TOOM; Dari:
عبدالرشید دوستم, Uzbek Latin: Abdul Rashid Do‘stum,
Uzbek Cyrillic: Абдул Рашид Дўстум; born 1954) is an
Afghan politician and general who has served as Vice President of
Afghanistan since 2014. An ethnic Uzbek, he is a former communist
general and warlord known for siding with winners during different
wars in Afghanistan. He is the chairman of his own political party,
Junbish-e Milli (National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan).
Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, Dostum was part of the
Afghan National Army
Afghan National Army and the regional commander of the country's
north, commanding about 20,000 mostly Uzbek soldiers participating in
battles against mujahideen rebels. In 1992 he ditched the Mohammad
Najibullah government shortly before its collapse, joining the
mujahideen, forming his
Junbish-e Milli party and militia and becoming
an independent warlord. He subsequently became the de facto leader of
Afghanistan's Uzbek community, controlling the country's northern
provinces and Mazar-i-Sharif, effectively creating his own proto-state
with an army of up to 40,000 men with tanks supplied by
Russia and jets. He initially supported the new government of
Burhanuddin Rabbani in
Kabul but in 1994 switched sides and allied
with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In 1995 he switched sides again and backed
Rabbani. In 1997 he was forced to flee after his former aide Abdul
Malik Pahlawan took Mazar-i-Sharif, before he fought back and regained
control. In 1998 the city was overrun by the
Taliban and he fled
again. Dostum returned to
Afghanistan in 2001 and joined the Northern
Alliance after the US invasion, leading his faction in the Fall of
After the fall of the
Taliban he joined Hamid Karzai's presidential
administration but spent most of his time in Turkey. He also served as
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Afghan Army, a role often viewed
as ceremonial. From 2011 he was part of the leadership council of
the National Front of
Afghanistan along with
Ahmad Zia Massoud
Ahmad Zia Massoud and
Mohammad Mohaqiq. In 2014 he joined Ashraf Ghani's presidential
administration as a vice president, but was forced to flee again in
2017 after being accused of sexually assaulting a political rival.
1 Early life
2.1 Soviet-Afghan War
2.2 Civil war and northern
Afghanistan autonomous state
2.4 Operation Enduring Freedom
2.5 Dasht-i-Leili massacre
2.6 Karzai administration
2.7 Time in Turkey
2.8 Ghani administration
3 Political and social views
4 In popular culture
7 External links
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Dostum was born in 1954 in
Khwaja Du Koh
Khwaja Du Koh near
Sheberghan in Jowzjan
Province, Afghanistan. Coming from an impoverished Uzbek family, he
received a very basic traditional education as he was forced to drop
out of school at a young age. From there, he took up work in the
village's major gas fields.
Dostum began working in 1970 in a state-owned gas refinery in
Sheberghan, participating in union politics, as the new government
started to arm the staff of the workers in the oil and gas refineries.
The reason for this was to create "groups for the defense of the
revolution". Because of the new communist ideas entering Afghanistan
in the 1970s, he enlisted in the
Afghan National Army
Afghan National Army in 1978. Dostum
received his basic military training in Jalalabad. His squadron was
deployed in the rural areas around Sheberghan, under the auspices of
the Ministry of National Security.
Main article: Soviet-Afghan War
By the mid-1980s he commanded around 20,000 militia men and controlled
the northern provinces of Afghanistan. While the unit recruited
Jowzjan and had a relatively broad base, many of its early
troops and commanders came from Dostum's home village. He left the
army after the purge of Parchamites, but returned after the Soviet
Abdul Rashid Dostum
Abdul Rashid Dostum in 2007
During the Soviet-Afghan War, Dostum was commanding a militia
battalion to fight and rout mujahideen forces; he had been appointed
an officer due to prior military experience. This eventually became a
regiment and later became incorporated into the defense forces as the
53rd Infantry Division. Dostum and his new division reported directly
to President Mohammad Najibullah. Later on he became the commander
of the military unit 374 in Jowzjan. He defended the Soviet-backed
Afghan government against the mujahideen forces throughout the 1980s.
While he was only a regional commander, he had largely raised his
forces by himself. The Jowzjani militia Dostum controlled was one of
the few in the country which was able to be deployed outside its own
region. They were deployed in
Kandahar in 1988 when Soviet forces were
withdrawing from Afghanistan.
Due to his efforts in the army, Dostum was awarded the title "Hero of
the Republic of Afghanistan" by President Najibullah.
Civil war and northern
Afghanistan autonomous state
Main article: Afghan Civil War (1992–96)
Dostum's men would become an important force in the fall of
1992. In April 1992, the opposition forces began their march to Kabul
against the government of Najibullah. Dostum had allied himself with
the opposition commanders
Ahmad Shah Massoud
Ahmad Shah Massoud and Sayed Jafar
Naderi, the head of the
Isma'ili community, and together they
captured the capital city. He and Massoud fought in a coalition
against Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Massoud and Dostum's forces joined
together to defend
Kabul against Hekmatyar. Some 4000-5000 of his
troops, units of his Sheberghan-based 53rd Division and Balkh-based
Guards Division, garrisoning Bala Hissar fort, Maranjan Hill, and
Khwaja Rawash Airport, where they stopped Najibullah from entering to
Dostum then left
Kabul for his northern stronghold Mazar-i-Sharif,
where he ruled, in effect, an independent region (or 'proto-state'),
often referred as the Northern Autonomous Zone. He printed his own
Afghan currency, ran a small airline named
Balkh Air, and formed
relations with countries like Uzbekistan. While the rest of the
country was in chaos, his region remained prosperous and functional,
and it won him the support from people of all ethnic groups. Many
people fled to his territory to escape the violence and fundamentalism
imposed by the
Taliban later on. In 1994, Dostum allied himself
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar against the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani
and Ahmad Shah Massoud, but in 1995 sided with the government
Main article: Afghan Civil War (1996–2001)
Following the rise of the
Taliban and their capture of Kabul, Dostum
aligned himself with the
Northern Alliance (United Front) against the
Northern Alliance was assembled in late 1996 by
Dostum, Massoud and
Karim Khalili against the Taliban. At this point
he is said to have had a force of some 50,000 men supported by both
aircraft and tanks.
Much like other
Northern Alliance leaders, Dostum also faced
infighting within his group and was later forced to surrender his
power to General Abdul Malik Pahlawan. Malik entered into secret
negotiations with the Taliban, who promised to respect his authority
over much of northern Afghanistan, in exchange for the apprehension of
Ismail Khan, one of their enemies. Accordingly, on 25 May 1997
Malik arrested Khan, handed him over and let the
Mazar-e-Sharif, giving them control over most of northern Afghanistan.
Because of this, Dostum was forced to flee to Turkey. However,
Malik soon realized that the
Taliban were not sincere with their
promises as he saw his men being disarmed. He then rejoined the
Northern Alliance, and turned against his erstwhile allies, driving
them from Mazar-e-Sharif. In October 1997, Dostum returned from exile
and retook charge. After Dostum briefly regained control of
Taliban returned in 1998 and he again fled to
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Enduring Freedom and Battle of Qala-i-Jangi
Dostum in early 2002
Dostum returned to
Afghanistan in October 2001 to join the U.S.-led
campaign against the Taliban, along with General Fahim, Ismail Khan
and Mohammad Mohaqiq. In November 2001, with the beginning of the
U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, and against the wishes of the
distrusted Dostum, a team including
Johnny Micheal Spann
Johnny Micheal Spann landed to set
up communications in Dar-e-Suf. A few hours later 12 men of
Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 595 landed to begin the
On 24 November 2001, 300
Taliban soldiers retreated after the Siege of
Kunduz by American and
Northern Alliance forces. The
Taliban laid down
their weapons a few miles from the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, and
eventually surrendered to Dostum. A small group of armed foreign
fighters were transferred to the 19th century prison fortress,
Taliban used concealed weapons to start the Battle
Qala-i-Jangi against the guards. The uprising was eventually
brought under control.
Main article: Dasht-i-Leili massacre
General Dostum has been accused by Western journalists of
responsibility for the suffocating or otherwise killing of 2,000
Taliban prisoners in December 2001. Dostum denied the accusations in
2009. US President Obama in 2009 ordered an investigation into the
matter, which as yet has yielded no (published) results.
Further information: Presidency of Hamid Karzai
In the aftermath of Taliban's removal from northern Afghanistan,
forces loyal to Dostum frequently clashed with Tajik forces loyal to
Atta Muhammad Nur. Atta's men kidnapped and killed a number of
Dostum's men, and constantly agitated to gain control of
Mazar-e-Sharif. Through the political mediations of the Karzai
International Security Assistance Force
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and
the United Nations, the Dostum-Atta feud has gradually declined.
Dostum served as deputy defense minister the early period of the
Karzai administration. In March 2003, he established a North Zone of
Afghanistan. On 20 May 2003, Dostum narrowly escaped an assassination
attempt. He was often residing outside Afghanistan, mainly in
Turkey. In February 2008 he was suspended after the apparent
kidnapping and torture of a political rival.
Time in Turkey
Some media reports in 2008 stated earlier that Dostum was "seeking
political asylum" in Turkey while others said he was exiled.
One Turkish media outlet said Dostum was visiting after flying there
with then Turkey's Foreign Minister
Ali Babacan during a meeting of
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
On 16 August 2009, Dostum made a requested return from exile to
Afghanistan to support President
Hamid Karzai in his bid for
re-election. He later flew by helicopter to his northern stronghold of
Sheberghan, where he was greeted by thousands of his supporters in the
local stadium. He subsequently made overtures to the United
States, promising he could "destroy the
Taliban and al Qaeda" if
supported by the U.S., saying that "the U.S. needs strong friends like
Dostum in 2015
Further information: Ghani cabinet
On 7 October 2013, the day after filing his nomination for the 2014
general elections as running mate of Ashraf Ghani, Dostum, being
accused of massacring civilians and prisoners including the
Dasht-i-Leili massacre (suffocating of 2,000
Taliban prisoners in
December 2001), uttered a press statement that some news media were
willing to welcome as "apologies": "Many mistakes were made during the
civil war (…) It is time we apologize to the Afghan people who were
sacrificed due to our negative policies (…) I apologize to the
people who suffered from the violence and civil war (…)".
Dostum was directly chosen as First
Vice President of Afghanistan
Vice President of Afghanistan in
the April–June 2014 Afghan presidential election, next to Ashraf
Ghani as President and
Sarwar Danish as second Vice President.
In July 2016
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch accused Abdul Rashid Dostum's National
Islamic Movement of
Afghanistan of killing, abusing and looting
civilians in the northern
Faryab Province during June. Militia
forces loyal to Dostum stated that the civilians they targeted - at
least 13 killed and 32 wounded - were supporters of the Taliban.
In 2017 he was accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a
political rival, claims that he denies and that forced him into exile
Political and social views
Dostum is considered to be liberal and somewhat leftist. Being ethnic
Uzbek, he has worked on the battlefield with leaders from all other
major ethnic groups, Hazaras, Pashtuns and Tajiks. When Dostum was
ruling his northern
Afghanistan proto-state before the
over in 1998, women were able to go about unveiled, girls were allowed
to go to school and study at the University of Balkh, cinemas showed
Indian films, music played on television, and Russian vodka and German
beer were openly available – activities which were all banned by the
He viewed the
ISAF forces attempt to crush the
Taliban as ineffective
and has gone on record saying in 2007 that he could mop up the Taliban
"in six months" if allowed to raise a 10,000 strong army of Afghan
veterans. Senior Afghan government officials do not trust Dostum as
they are concerned that he might be secretly rearming his forces.
In popular culture
Navid Negahban portrays Dostum in the 2018 film 12 Strong.
^ "Big fish among the Afghan warlords". The Washington Times. 12
October 2008. Gen. Dostum, 54
^ Partlow, Joshua (23 April 2014). "He was America's man in
Afghanistan. Then things went sour. Now Abdurrashid Dostum may be
back". Retrieved 4 January 2018 – via www.WashingtonPost.com.
^ "Rashid Dostum: The treacherous general". Independent.co.uk. 1
December 2001. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
^ a b c d David Pugliese (10 May 2007). "Former Afghan warlord says he
can defeat Taliban". CanWest News Service. Archived from the original
on 21 May 2008. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
^ a b "Abdul Rashid Dostum". Global Security. Archived from the
original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009.
^ a b "Profile: General Rashid Dostum". BBC News. 25 September 2001.
Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 18 March
^ Marshall, p. 3
^ a b c d e "Abdul Rashid Dostum". Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Archived from the original on 10 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March
^ Historical Dictionary of
Afghanistan by Ludwig W. Adamec, 2006
^ Vogelsang (2002), p. 324.
^ Anthony Davis, 'The Battlegrounds of Northern Afghanistan,' Jane's
Intelligence Review, July 1994, p.323-4
^ Vogelsang (2002), p. 232.
^ The Last Warlord: The Life and Legend of Dostum, the Afghan Warrior
Who Led US
Special Forces to Topple the
Taliban Regime by Brian Glyn
^ Johnson, Thomas H. "Ismail Khan, Herat, and Iranian Influence".
Center for Contemporary Conflict. Archived from the original on 11
August 2004. Retrieved 20 March 2007.
^ De Ponfilly, Christophe(2001); Massoud l'Afghan; Gallimard;
ISBN 2-07-042468-5; p. 75
^ page 6-8 - Nate Hardcastle. American Soldier: Stories of Special
Forces from Grenada to
Afghanistan (2002 ed.). Thunder's Mouth Press.
p. 364. ISBN 1-56025-438-6.
^ UN Security Council report. "La situation en
Afghanistan et ses
conséquences pour la paix et la sécurité internationales". Human
Rights Internet. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
Retrieved 20 March 2007.
^ Robert Young Pelton (2007). "The Legend of Heavy D & the Boys:In
the Field With an Afghan Warlord". National Geographic Society.
Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved 22 April
^ "ODA 595". PBS. 2007. Archived from the original on 29 April 2008.
Retrieved 22 April 2008.
^ "Dostum, Abdul Rashid". Afghan Biographies. Retrieved 16 January
^ "Dostum seeking asylum in
Turkey - media reports," Quqnoos.com, 6
December 2008, retrieved 6 December 2008
^ "Afghan general Rashid Dostum flies to exile in Turkey," Deutsche
Presse-Agentur via earthtimes.org, 4 December 2008, retrieved 6
^ "Afghan warlord in
Turkey but not in exile, official says[permanent
dead link]," Today's Zaman, 5 December 2008, retrieved 6 December 2008
^ "The Times & The Sunday Times". TheTimes.co.uk. Retrieved 4
^ Motlagh, Jason; Carter, Sara A. (22 September 2009). "Afghan
warlords will fight if U.S. gives weapons". Washington Times.
Retrieved 23 September 2009.
^ Bezhan, Frud (8 October 2013). "Former Afghan
Warlord Apologizes For
Past 'Mistakes'". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
^ July 31, 2016 12:00AM EDT, Afghanistan: Forces Linked to Vice
President Terrorize Villagers, Prosecute Militia Members for
^ a b "
Taliban kills 24 police in two days". The Australian. 1 August
2016. access-date= requires url= (help)
^ Mashal, Mujib; Rahim, Najim (18 July 2017). "Afghan Vice President's
Return Thwarted as Plane Is Turned Back". Retrieved 4 January 2018 –
^ Williams, Brian Glyn (6 July 2016). "The State Department Insults
the Afghan Vice President (And All Afghan Uzbeks)".
HuffingtonPost.com. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
^ Vogelsang (2002) p. 232.
^ Kroll, Justin (November 17, 2016). "Chris Hemsworth's Afghanistan
War Drama 'Horse Soldiers' Adds 'Homeland's' Navid Negahban". Variety.
Retrieved January 16, 2018.
Vogelsang, Willem. (2002). The Afghans. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.
General Abdul Rashid Dostum's Official Website
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Abdul Rashid Dostum
Abdul Rashid Dostum on Islamic Republic Of Afghanistan
BBC online profile
Biography about Dostum
CNN Presents: House of War
Afghanistan Mass Grave: The Dasht-e Leili War Crimes Investigation
As possible Afghan war-crimes evidence removed, U.S. silent
Obama Calls for Probe into 2001 Massacre of Suspected
Taliban POWs by
Warlord - video by Democracy Now!
Eyewitness account from National Geographic war reporter Robert Young
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Abdul Rashid Dostum.
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