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Wednesday, June 24

As Taliban threaten to overrun Afghanistan's north, 2 former rival warlords team to fight them (UPDATED)

UPDATE
See also June 24 RFE/RL article, "Unprecedented" Surge Of Militants Plagues Afghanistan, UN Told, compiled from AP and AFP reports.  

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From RFE/RL June 23 interview with Atta Mohammad Noor:
The [central] government has made efforts, but there's a weakness in leadership. The government's mismanagement has exacerbated the problems in the region. Instead of solving problems, the government is creating more challenges. For example, the government doesn't have any organized military plans and it shows our weakness to the enemy. On the other hand, the enemies of Afghanistan have become more active because of a new geographical shift. We are in a very dangerous war. If we take the right measures, we will be able to tackle the problems easily.
Asraf Ghani's government, as with his predecessor, has always been very reluctant to encourage former warlords to rearm and fight the Taliban but now the situation is so dire in Afghanistan's north, Kabul has given the unlikely team its blessing. 

Here's Frud Bezhan's full June 23 report for RFE/RL: 

Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful governor of Afghanistan's Balkh Province, says he has forged an alliance with the unlikeliest of candidates -- former rival warlord and First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum -- in order to combat the Taliban in the country's restive north.

Noor, speaking exclusively to RFE/RL on June 23, said the two political heavyweights had set aside old rivalries to fight against the Taliban and other militant groups active in the region.

"This alliance is meant to bring peace and security to the region and push back our enemies," said Noor.

The alliance between Noor's Jamiat-e-Islami party and Dostum's Junbish party is unprecedented, given past hostilities.

Dostum -- an ethnic Uzbek former militia leader -- and Noor -- an ethnic Tajik who has ruled Balkh for the past 12 years -- were locked in fierce battles for control of the north during the country's devastating civil war in 1992-96.

Fighting continued after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 until a power-sharing agreement was signed three years later, in which Noor was given control of Balkh.

As violence spreads across the country's north amid a major Taliban offensive that began in April, Noor told RFE/RL that many northern provinces were in danger of being overrun.


Noor, a former mujahedin commander, said the two sides were "coordinating Afghan security forces in the provinces to repel enemy attacks."

The governor said the sides were working with the full support of the central government and that they were taking steps to "reinforce the alliance."

The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive in April with attacks in the provinces of Kunduz and Badakhshan, where the militants captured several districts.

Afghan security forces have managed in many areas to beat back the militants, recapturing territory lost to the Taliban.

In the latest fighting, Afghan forces on June 23 recaptured a key district close to Kunduz's provincial capital, repelling Taliban fighters who had threatened to overrun their first provincial capital since being toppled from power in 2001.

Noor said he had sent soldiers and police from Balkh to join local government forces in Kunduz.

This year's Taliban offensive marks the first fighting season in which Afghan forces are battling the insurgents without the full support of U.S.-led foreign combat troops.

Noor said Afghan forces were capable of fending off the Taliban, but said "stronger leadership" was required on the part of the central government.

He said the "weakness of the government" was partly to blame for the soaring insecurity in the north.
Noor's relations with Kabul have been tense in the past and the governor has accused Kabul of neglecting security threats in northern Afghanistan.

[END REPORT]

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