First Vice-President General Abdul Rashid Dostum has increased momentum in his fight against Taliban insurgents in northern Afghanistan by rallying support from local residents. This task has been made easier by a wave of horrific terrorist attacks by the militant group in recent weeks as well as widespread denunciations of their alleged backers in Pakistan by Afghan leaders.
Gen. Dostum, who is now leading a clearing operation in Qaisar district of northern Faryab province, made calls for support to residents in the village of Shakh on Sunday, where he received a warm welcome.
In recent weeks, Afghan leaders from President Ashraf Ghani to the Ulema Council have denounced the Pakistani military’s continued support for Taliban violence inside Afghanistan, calling it a betrayal of Islamabad’s commitments and a gross violation of Afghanistan’s national sovereignty. The statements have come after a wave of deadly terrorist attacks in Kabul and elsewhere that left scores of civilians dead and ignited outrage around the country.
Condemnations of Pakistan’s covert support for the Taliban are nothing new, as many Afghan leaders have accused Islamabad’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) of providing financial and logistical support for militant groups active inside Afghanistan for many years. However, the breadth and intensity of the backlash over the past week is unprecedented.
On Sunday, Dostum urged Faryab locals to answer the recent call for Jihad against Pakistan by the Afghan Ulema Council. The crowd that was gathered to hear him speak responded by chanting slogans against Pakistan and the ISI.
“You might be informed about the statement of the Ulema Council in Kabul; they issued the decree of Jihad against Pakistan. The Ulema declared Jihad on the basis of the Sharia,” Dostum said. “The people of Afghanistan have collapsed major emperors and Pakistan is nothing for them,” he added.
The recent spate of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan came after news of the death of the Taliban’s leader Mullah Omar broke. Infighting over the circumstances surrounding his death, which in fact occurred in 2013, as well as the Taliban’s future leadership, resulted in the collapse of the nascent peace process engineered by President Ghani.
Referring to the death Omar, Dostum said that it exposed the extent to which the general public, and Taliban fighters themselves, had been duped into believing the movement was still led by Afghans. “We want to show the world what these Pakistani generals are doing in Afghanistan under the disguise of Sheikhs,” he said.
Throughout the north, animosity toward the Taliban and those who support them runs deep, and would likely exist regardless of exhortations from Dostum and leaders in Kabul. In the Shakh village, before it was liberated from Taliban control, business owners were forced to pay extortionate levies or face pain of death.
Dostum, along with his fellow leaders in the Afghan government, hope to earn the trust and support of local communities like Shakh by address the grievances they have toward the Taliban’s failed governance. “I will go, and until I return, fill the shops with carpets and other goods and play music and enjoy,” he told Shakh villagers on Sunday. “God willing, we will open the schools, so that the youth can come and get an education,” he said. “How many girls schools do we have here? Ask the youth to come and learn.”
Dostum is currently coordinating a massive offensive by the Afghan security forces to clear Taliban fighters out of the Khawja Katani, China and Taimani districts of Faryab.