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Saturday, 06.04.2011, 02:40pm (GMT)
The nominal government in
Mr Graeme Smith, a war reporter from the Canadian Globe and Mail said recently that while he was reporting in
Wedded to the warlords
Globe and Mail: Smoke billows above coils of razor wire after an earth-shaking explosion kills one of
A strongman dies and another rises. The bloody politics of
The success of that transition depends on characters who might be too unpleasant to deal with under other circumstances. Having failed to establish a working government in many parts of
The two generals, Daud and Razik, exemplify that strategy. Though from different ethnic groups – Gen. Daud was a northern Tajik while Gen. Razik is a southern Pashtun – much united them. Each gained fearsome authority in his respective territory. Both have been accused of – and denied – drug dealing and heavy-handed tactics. Staunch enemies of the Taliban, both were embraced by the
When an insurgent’s bomb killed Gen. Daud inside a high-security compound on May 28, his supporters protested in the streets and analysts described his death as a blow to the stability of northern
The next day, when Gen. Razik was named acting police chief for
The cycle of death and promotion suggests a sort of continuity, analysts say. Western-backed strongmen will continue to be set against the Taliban, and the war will continue its trajectory of worsening violence.
For those hoping to end the conflict with a negotiated settlement, Gen. Razik’s appointment was discouraging. In his early 30s, wiry and energetic, he is precisely the opposite of an appeasing figure. A member of the governor’s staff in
He has boasted that he prefers to avoid taking prisoners. Those captured alive who have survived detention in Spin Boldak have complained of grave mistreatment. Abdul Ghafar, a 25-year-old farmer, said he was returning home in 2006 when police halted his bus. They singled him out among the passengers and threw him into an unofficial dungeon in Spin Boldak, where he claimed to have been strung up by his ankles and suspended upside-down for long periods.
Gen. Razik could not be reached for comment on the prisoner’s allegation. The Afghan government denies torturing prisoners, and argues that Taliban suspects cannot be trusted to give honest accounts of their time in custody.
Gen. Daud enjoyed status in his home
A Globe and Mail investigation in 2009 uncovered documents linking Gen. Daud with narcotics smuggling, an allegation he vigorously denied. It was one of several reports linking him with the drug trade, none of which appeared to harm his standing with the international community.
The foreigners’ tolerance for such flawed allies has been a recurring source of frustration for some observers.
“Daud and Razik are exactly the types of guys you want on your side in a bar fight but eventually you have to raise the level of dialogue to something more productive and sustainable over the longer term,” said a veteran United Nations consultant. “It’s the short-term tactical plan that also doubles as the long-term strategy, since it is easier to work with individual strongmen than it is to build up a more professional institution and players.”
Michael Semple, a fellow at