Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hanging Out With Warlords

While Conservative Cheerleaders at the Blogging Tories and Pro-War Liberals like to besmerch Jack Layton with the epithat; Taliban Jack, perhaps they would like to explain why RH Stephen Harper has been hanging around with a warlord, Mullah Naqib, whose connection with the Taliban were such that he was usurped from govenorship of Kandahar thanks to the CIA and US special forces.

Why the main suspect in the death of a Canadian diplomat walked free

Mullah Naqib shakes hands with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in March, less than two months after the Kandahar elder helped free the main suspect in Glyn Berry’s death. Tom Hanson/CP

Mullah Naqib shakes hands with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in March, less than two months after the Kandahar elder helped free the main suspect in Glyn Berry’s death.

The key to Mohammed's release was Mullah Naqib, an important ally of the Afghan government who has been commanding respect in Kandahar since his days fighting the Russians. In a country where blood is everything, Mohammed was lucky enough to be born a member of the old warlord's tribe.

It's a measure of Naqib's standing - and a reminder that loyalty is a complicated thing in Afghanistan - that just months after Berry's death, the warlord stood on the grounds of a military base in Kandahar and shook hands with another Canadian, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was making a quick visit in March.

In an interview, Naqib warmly remembered his meeting with Harper, saying the prime minister extended a friendly invitation to visit Canada. "He said, 'Please come to my country,' " Naqib recalled, chuckling.

NDP blasts association with warlord -

Hansard - 96 (2006/12/12)

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, yesterday's Globe and Mail carried a picture of the Prime Minister shaking hands with Afghan warlord Mullah Naqib, a man who admits using his influence to free a leading suspect in the masterminding of the suicide bombing that killed Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry and injured three of our soldiers. Can the Prime Minister explain Canada's relationship with Mullah Naqib and why he saw fit to meet with him?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Very briefly, Mr. Speaker, I met Mullah Naqib when I visited the Canadian provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar, where he met me as part of a delegation of Canadian and Afghan officials. He was introduced to me as an individual who had been involved in the insurgency and was now working on our side. I would point out that if the hon. member reads the rest of the story carefully, she will see that much of the allegations in there are speculative.

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, this situation gets worse. Not only did the Prime Minister stage a photo op with this shadowy warlord, he rolled out the welcome mat for Naqib to visit Canada.
Is offering hospitality and a handshake to the warlord credited with subverting the police investigation into these tragic Canadian deaths the Prime Minister's concept of justice for the families of diplomat Glyn Berry and three of our soldiers wounded in action? Or, given Mullah Naqib's close association with the Taliban leadership, is this the Prime Minister's notion of dialogue with combatants? Which is it?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Once again, Mr. Speaker, I was introduced to Mullah Naqib, and in fact at the Glyn Berry room, at the provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar. He was introduced to me as an individual who was assisting Canadian and Afghan government officials.

Perhaps the PMO should have briefed Steve about Mullah Naqib by getting him to read these books. And these news reports from the time and then these later articles;

Outside Kandahar, some anti-Taliban forces mobilized behind Hamid Karzai, a commander who supports the exiled King Mohammed Zahir Shah. Karzai spent weeks working undercover in Afghanistan, drawing on his old tribal networks and recruiting chieftains to join the battle. His strategy was to sever the Taliban from its tribal links, winning over local chiefs with promises of peace and international aid. Karzai's men advanced from Uruzgan, north of Kandahar; on the other side of the city, thousands of armed men from southern border towns loyal to another tribal elder, Ghul Agha Sherzai, moved into positions in the hills in the east. A delegation of tribal elders led by Abdul Haqiq, a former mujahedin commander, spent three days with Taliban representatives negotiating the handover of Kandahar and three other southern Afghan provinces. Under the plan, Mullah Naqib, an ex-commander, and Haji Bashar, a businessman allegedly linked to the opium trade, would both become interim leaders of Kandahar.

With the airport in Gul Agha's hands, the Taliban needed to flee Kandahar. They made a hasty deal to surrender the city to Mullah Naqib Ullah, a onetime commander who was on friendly terms with them. Mullah Naqib Ullah, in turn, would support Karzai. It's not clear whether Gul Agha was part of the deal or whether he was being cut out, or what role the United States might have played, but Gul Agha's forces rushed from the airport to the dusty city and captured it without firing a shot on Dec. 7. The Taliban were finished; Gul Agha was the victor.

Kandahar will be run by Gul Agha, who was deposed as governor of the city when the Taliban seized control in 1994. His deputy will be Mullah Naqibullah, a former Taliban supporter who oversaw the surrender of Taliban forces on Friday. - Transcripts

ROBERTSON: Some are people are telling us -- with all respect to Mullah Naqib that they think that he is not suitable to be the new governor or administrator of Kandahar and that's why the situation we're in now, where Mr. Gulazar (ph), Mullah Naqib...

KARZAI: Mr. Mullah Naqib is not the governor of Kandahar. He just helped with the surrender of power by the Taliban. Those things will be determined by the central government.

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006
Sarah Chayes on Life in Afghanistan After the Taliban and Why She Left NPR

AMY GOODMAN: You, very early on in your book, talk about a report you couldn’t do or didn’t get in onto NPR. What was that story?

SARAH CHAYES: It was really this story. It was, I watched -- there were U.S. Special Forces that were embedded in a group, a kind of tribal militia, which was directed to put pressure on Kandahar from the south. President Karzai also had U.S. Special Forces with him. He was coming down toward Kandahar from the north. The Taliban surrendered to him. They left. Al-Qaeda left the city. The city was in the hands of President Karzai and his chosen representative, and then these U.S. Special Forces urged this warlord to take the city by force from President Karzai.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, now, explain how this went down and how you understood what was happening. You were on the border with this --?

SARAH CHAYES: I was on the border. I was not with this group, but I was on the border, and I was listening to the radio, where a lot of this played out, and I was speaking to people who were coming back across the border, and I knew that President Karzai had designated a certain person whose name is Mullah Naqib to be governor of Kandahar. And then, suddenly this warlord is in the city. And then, there’s this huge and angry standoff, which is being played out on the airwaves of the BBC actually, of their Pashto Service, and this warlord is saying, “No, I’m going to be governor of Kandahar.” And I knew there was something strange. And eventually that’s what happened. And Mullah Naqib basically pled old age and said, “Oh, I’m too old.” And I thought, “That’s not right.” You know.

Power shift in Afghanistan | December 10, 2001

The problems that beset the victorious Afghan factions in Kandahar are a composite of the challenges that Afghanistan's new rulers face in cities around the country, and indeed, in the formation of a new national government. Even though most of the warlords and political leaders who now control Afghanistan shared a common goal of throwing out the Taliban, their agreement ended once the Taliban were defeated. Now, some top warlords, such as Pashtun leaders Pir Syed Gailani and Haji Abdul Qadir, reject the new interim national government put together last week in Bonn. Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum told US officials yesterday he will now cooperate with the new interim government.

In a country with so many possible dividing lines - by ethnicity, language, religion, and tribe - Afghanistan's new leaders are searching for ways to bind their country together.

The man who bears this burden is Hamid Karzai, a southern Pashtun leader who was recently selected as Afghanistan's interim leader. This week, Mr. Karzai has been shuttling between rival warlords in the city of Kandahar. Unlike Pashtun expatriates in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, who had organized an anti-Taliban council called the Eastern Shura before taking the eastern city of Jalalabad, the Pashtuns of the south have no such council. This leaves them with the unwieldy task of forging political alliances between armed groups, while the smoke of war is still clearing.

The chief dispute in Kandahar lies between Pashtun warlord and former Kandahar governor Gul Agha Sherzai and another former governor, Mullah Naqib Ullah, who handed over the government of Kandahar to the nascent Taliban movement seven years ago. Mr. Gul Agha's followers criticize Mullah Naqib for his close ties to the Taliban, while Mullah Naqib's supporters say that Gul Agha's troops are unruly thieves.

Kandahar on brink of chaos as warlords ready for battle

War in Afghanistan: Observer special

Peter Beaumont in Quetta
Sunday December 9, 2001

Residents of the Taliban's former headquarters city of Kandahar were last night bracing themselves for a return to the inter-factional fighting that raged there until the Taliban took control in 1994, as evidence grew that militias were preparing to fight for control of the city.

Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's new interim leader, called a shura, or council, to resolve the differences. But former factional leaders seemed already busy accumulating men and weapons for a return to civil war.

According to Pashtun tribal sources in Quetta in neighbouring Pakistan, commanders loyal to Gul Agha Sherzai, the former governor of Kandahar, who is angry that the city has been handed over to his bitter rival, Mullah Naqib Ullah, has been recruiting men in Pakistan to join his forces.

Gul Agha has a house in Quetta, home to thousands of refugees who have fled Afghanistan's two decades of conflict. 'I know his commanders were here last week,' said one source in the city. 'They are actively recruiting and moving men across the border.'

There are conflicting reports over the whereabouts of the Taliban's supreme spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, who escaped Kandahar, apparently with the connivance of the man who accepted the Taliban surrender, Mullah Naqib Ullah.

The threat of fighting over the spoils comes amid increasing international concern over deepening splits across Afghanistan's tribal, nationalist and religious divide, despite the agreement to form a broad-based interim government, headed by Karzai, due to be inaugurated on 22 December. Aid workers and diplomats in the region claim the tensions have hastened Afghanistan's descent into lawlessness as the Taliban disintegrated.

Already Uzbeki General Rashid Dostum has protested against the way power was shared out by the Bonn talks, making veiled threats of a return to war. Some sources claim Dostum has had satellite phone talks with Gul Agha to discuss a joint strategy.

Pashtun sources in Quetta allied to Hamid Karzai told The Observer the real problem was Gul Agha, who they claim has enjoyed the support of the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Until Gul Agha is 'removed', they say, there cannot be a solution.

At least four groups allied to former Mujahideen commanders appeared to be moving fighters into the city. At the centre of the dispute is the issue of who controls Kandahar, the scene of two months of ferocious US bombing attacks.

Following his personal negotiation of the surrender of Kandahar, Karzai agreed that the Taliban should hand over control of the city to Mullah Naqib Ullah, who has enjoyed good relations with them for years.

Indeed, it was Naqib Ullah's agreement to quit Kandahar with his fighters in 1994 that handed the keys of the city to the Taliban. According to his detractors - including Gul Agha ,who reoccupied his old headquarters on Friday - Mullah Naqib Ullah is Taliban in all but name.

'There is a shura in the city now to try to figure out how to control the situa tion,' said Khalid Pashtun, spokesman for Gul Agha.

He said the council included Hamid Karzai, Gul Agha and Mullah Naqib Ullah. 'Mullah Naqib Uullah is also there, but that is the biggest obstacle,' Pashtun declared by satellite telephone. 'Right now, we have to convince Mullah Naqib Uullah to stand aside.'

On Friday night, Pashtun all but accused Naqib Ullah of harbouring Mullah Omar and 1,000 followers. 'Our information is telling us that Omar and some other leaders, they are all with Mullah Naqib Ullah.'

As well as forces loyal to Naquib Ullah, Mullah Haji Bashar (who is based in nearby Spin Boldak) and Karzai, former commanders attached to the Hezbe-i-Islami leader, Engineer Hekmatyar, occupied Qishla-i-Jadeed garrison on the outskirts of the city.

Reports in the Pakistani media claimed some other unaffiliated commanders, including Kabibulah Khan, had taken control of Taliban tanks and armoury in the Bagh-i-Pul area and moved their fighters to Kandahar. Ustad Abdul Halim, another former Mujahideen commander from Professor Sayyaf's Itthead-i-Islami, was also reported en route to the battered city to revive his forces and seek a role in the new administration.

All these commanders had divided Kandahar into fiefdoms until their ejection in 1994. They were so hated that the Taliban captured the city and surrounding province almost without a fight.

Evidence has emerged of the devastation rained on Kandahar during the past two months, in particular on the Taliban positions. One Taliban official said: 'Our defence lines were broken. Seven times we tried to rebuild them and every time they bombed. 'Rows and rows of Taliban soldiers were killed and we couldn't even find the bodies.'

The Talibs

The Mujahideen had literally fallen apart, fighting each other as fiercely as they had fought the Soviets, the commanders becoming warlords in the territories they ruled over e.g. Ismail Khan became Governor Herat, Mullah Naqib Kandahar, Haji Qadeer Jalalabad, etc. Lesser commanders simply became brigands, blocking roads and imposing “taxes” at will. Absolute lawlessness ruled the land, rape, loot and pillage became the order of the day.

The new Afghan Armed Forces became an amalgam of elements of the Soviet trained Afghan Army and lateral entries from the Afghan Mujahideen. Most of those inducted were Tajik and Uzbek loyalists of Defence Minister Ahmed Shah Masood (the actual man in power), this alienated the majority Pashtuns. Holding the major cities and the military bases around the country, Masood abandoned the countryside to the Mujahideen-turned-bandits. The withdrawing Soviets left a vast surplus of defence material, particularly tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and ammunition of all kinds, greased and packed in crates.

With Masood increasingly hostile, his troops stood by as a mob set the Pakistan Embassy on fire, the Benazir Government in 1994 mandated the ISI to help the traders secure a route for Central Asia through Kandahar and Herat to Turghundi. Unwittingly Ms Benazir acted as a midwife to the birth of the Taliban. A convoy of Pakistan trucks was intercepted by the local Mujahideen Commander in Hilmand along with the accompanying ISI operatives. When the Governor Kandahar Mullah Naqib expressed his helplessness, ISI requested Mullah Zakiri, who was in Quetta, for help. A small group of Talibs led by a relative obscure religious preacher Mullah Umar, who had lost an eye during the Afghan War, freed the convoy. Welcomed as saviours, the Talibs replaced Mullah Naqib. Hundreds of Talibs from all over rushed to join the Talibs in Kandahar. With Kandahar in their control Mujahideen from the other factions and even entire units of the Armed Forces defected to the Talibs. The world could not believe that these country yokels, now known as the Taliban, could handle sophisticated weapons. They concluded these were Pakistani skilled personnel despite the fact that Soviet origin equipment (except for MI-8 helicopters) is not in use in Pakistan. For their own individual selfish purposes some ISI officers, started the myth that Pakistan created the Taliban, this damaged Pakistan no end. True that Pakistan has been giving money and material support, far cheaper than to have refugees costing many times more for their upkeep.

The Taliban restored law and order by clearing the roadblocks of all bandits and disarming everyone not in the new militia. Fed up of years of lawlessness and atrocities, the population welcomed the cleanliness of Taliban governance. Provinces fell without firing a single shot when the local commanders came over to the Taliban side. Fully 90% of those called Taliban were not Talibs and have never been Talibs, many have never been to any school or Madrassah. The Taliban ultimately took over control of Kabul in 1996 from Masood, his forces withdrawing to the safety of his native Panjsher Valley. Masood was brave but parochial in looking only after the Tajik interest. This myopic vision created anarchy in all of Afghanistan except Kabul, a set-piece environment for takeover by the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Mazar-i-Sharif changed hands a couple of times before Rashid Dostum fled.

An Introduction of the Taliban

The cycle of violence, destruction, and chaos of the Mujahideen era created the condition for the rise of the puritanical Taliban. There are several versions of how a small group of taliban, led by Mullah Muhammad Omar took control of areas around Qandahar in 1994.

According to the most widely circulated account amongst the residents of Qandahar, a group of "madrasee" (belonging or originating from a Madrasa) taliban, headed by Mullah Mohammad Omar arrived in Afghanistan with the intent to re-establish law and order and to re-organize themselves. They took residence in a school near Dand in Qandahar. On September 20, 1994, an Afghan family on its way to Herat from Qandahar, was looted, its male members molested, and its female members were raped by gangs manning one of the so-called "check points" along the route. One of the victims escapes and reaches the newly established Taliban compound. The story goes that Mullah Omar and his followers rushed to the scene, capturing the perpetrators, executing them on the spot and then collecting and burying the bodies of the victims. It is this faithful incident, the Taliban claim, that marked the beginning of their campaign in Afghanistan. The Taliban then moved in and disarmed other groups in the area. They began consolidating their position and procuring weapons by winning the allegiance of several local military commanders. Among the groups who surrendered to the Taliban (through a peaceful arrangement) was that of Mullah Naqib, who along with a group of other warlords, had divided up the province amongst themselves. One of these warlords was Lalai, a former thief and "Sarbaz" (communist militia) who had defected to the Mojahedin during the Jihad era and had now become a post Jihad era warlord of a sector of Qandahar. While there is no a consensus about the triggering events that would mark the rise of the Taliban, it is clear that the initial popularity of the Taliban was due to the complete collapse of law and order under the so called Mujahideen era, which had officially begun in 1992.



Towards the end of 2001, Gul Agha Shirzai, the pre-Taliban governor of Kandahar,
successfully challenged Governor Mullah Naqib Ullah for the governorship of the province.
Naqib was supported by his tribe, the Alikozay, which is stronger than the Shirzai tribe, but
Gul Agha had the support of the US military. However, he also chose to build a form of
coalition among Pashtun tribes, giving some positions to members of the Alikozay and
playing on ethnic Pashtun pride by supporting Amanullah Khan (a Pashtun commander south
of Shindand) against the multi-ethnic forces of Ismail Khan. Gul Agha also declared his
allegiance to President Karzaï.
These examples illustrate that, in the Pashtun tribal belt, the ‘winner’ is the one who succeeds
in getting support from the dominant players (the Afghan state and the US army) or who is
able to benefit from lack of co-ordination between them. But there is always a need for some
sort of ‘godfather’ due to the existence of a power balance between the tribes, who are all
engaged in a permanent negotiating process in which they rely heavily on external brokers.
The warlords will achieve substantive power only if there is rivalry or lack of co-ordination
between the dominant external actors. Hence the significance of the US decision in late 2002
to cease dealing directly with local warlords and using them as proxies in the war against Al
Qaeda. Such a withdrawal is necessary if the fragile central state is to have sufficient leverage
and room for manoeuvre in its relations with provincial leaders.

A House Divided? Analysing the 2005 Afghan Elections

Agha Lalai Dastgeeri, PC candidate, explains Alokozai voter organisation
One month prior to the elections, the elders of the Alokozai tribe met at the house of Mullah Naqib [the current leader of the Alokozais in Kandahar]. All the candidates gave their speeches highlighting their aims and policies. Some tribal elders, including Mullah Naqib, were then selected and given the authority to choose the candidates on behalf of the tribe. They went to a separate room and selected one Wolesi Jirga candidate and three Provincial Council candidates. But some of the candidates did not agree with the decision of the tribe…Thirty years of war has destroyed the old tribal system. Before there were very few tribal elders – now there are many and there are many divisions between children. They are not unified. Many jihadi groups and political parties have also divided people and have weakened the tribal system.

Source: Interview with Agha Lalai Dastgeeri, Kandahar, 8 October 2005

The frequently heard statement that “people voted according to how they were told to vote by
the tribal elders” did not prove to be true in the case of the Alokozais. The endorsement of the
Alokozai tribal elders, including the tribal leader Mullah Naqib, clearly did not result in most
Alokozais voting for Haji Shahkaka, who ended up in fifteenth place in the WJ contest.
Different explanations were given for this poor showing. Some felt that the choice of
candidates was the problem, as Haji Shahkaka, although a respected tribal elder, was quite
old and not very powerful or influential. The theme that voters wanted powerful and influential
representatives who would be effective in delivering patronage and resolving their problems
emerged in many interviews. There had been a stronger Alokozai candidate, Izzatullah
Wasefi, who belongs to an influential Alokozai family from Kandahar. However, following his
appointment by President Karzai as Governor of Farah Province, he withdrew as a candidate.
Some blamed weak tribal leadership for the Alokozais’ poor performance. Mullah Naqib, other
than hosting the meeting where the candidates were selected, largely remained disengaged
from the election campaign. Unlike many other tribal leaders, Mullah Naqib chose not to contest the elections, reportedly preferring instead to focus on his business interests.
Furthermore, Khan Mohammad, the powerful former Alokozai militia commander and head of
the Kandahar Garrison, had lost influence in Kandahar since his appointment as the Chief of
Police in Balkh Province. As one interviewee noted, the Alokozais failed to organise because
“Wasefi didn’t campaign, Mullah Naqib sat back and did not actively participate, and Khan
Mohammad is in Mazar.”




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Anonymous said...

I accept Prime Minister Harper's reply that he was introduced to this person on the basis that this person was on the right side. What do you want from our PM? He arrives. People are arranged for him to meet at a photo op. Mr. Harper has no intention by all
of his actions and his words about troops in Afghanistan to ever
entertain a friendship with the enemy. Take that comment to the bank and cash it. I have that picture and I will take it off my blog area. The inuendo about it is enough.

eugene plawiuk said...

Gee I dunno know it didn't take me long to develop a dossier on Naqib, so I would expect our PM to have had a backgrounder on who he was meeting in Kandahar. It's not like Naqib is some simple shopkeeper. He was and is a major political player in the region.
So sorry I can't accept your excues or the PM's saying its all just for show.