KABUL: An Afghan commander accused of war crimes has been promoted to the rank of marshal as a result of negotiations that led to a power-sharing deal signed on Sunday between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his key political rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.
Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum is a controversial figure on the country’s political stage. The warlord from the Uzbek community has been accused of human rights abuses stretching back to the civil war in the 1990s, and the International Criminal Court pursued a case against him.
His militias were accused of deliberately allowing 2,000 Taliban prisoners, who had surrendered to him, to suffocate in shipping containers after the Taliban government was ousted in 2001.
Dostum sided with Ghani during the 2014 presidential election, helping him to gain the support of Afghan Uzbeks. Dostum served as his vice president until 2016.
However he was sidelined by Ghani following accusations that he had ordered his militia to kidnap, torture and rape a political rival, Ahmad Eschi. The US and the European Union pressed the Afghan government to investigate the case.
Dostum went into exile but returned to Afghanistan in 2018 under a deal with the government that granted him safe passage in the wake of unrest among his fellow Uzbeks.
He became one of Abdullah’s key backers upon his return, supporting him in September’s presidential poll, and his promotion was one of the conditions set by Abdullah to reach Sunday’s agreement with Ghani.
Habiba Danesh, a member of parliament, said: “The promotion of Dostum has been debated in parliament; some support it and some not. Scores of lawmakers have signed a petition letter against his promotion.”
“He is accused of human rights abuses, cases have been filed against him in local courts and at the International Criminal Court,” said Baktash Eschi, the lawmaker-son of Ahmad Eschi.
“We are concerned about the future of rule of law in our country and feel sad that Dostum is being promoted to the rank of marshal. The world bragged of promoting democracy and human rights here and now we have this happening and they are silent.”
“If you are powerful, you are above the law in Afghanistan and have perfect immunity … no matter what you have done,” Wahed Faqiri, an analyst, told Arab News.
The power-sharing deal that Ghani signed with Abdullah, his main rival in the presidential election, ended months of unprecedented political turmoil amid an escalation of Taliban attacks.
In late March the US threatened to cut $1 billion of aid for the country if Ghani and Abdullah failed to form a single government.
Under Sunday’s agreement Abdullah will lead a council for peace talks with the Taliban, while his allies will hold positions in the Afghan cabinet, including key ministries, and will appoint governors as well.
Kabul-Taliban peace negotiations have been expected since the US signed an accord with the insurgents in February, which called for the gradual withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for Afghan government security forces held by the group.
The deal required the prisoner exchange program to be concluded by March 10, following which both parties were to start the so-called intra-Afghan talks for a sustainable ceasefire and to decide on a future political roadmap for Afghanistan.