Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An analysis of the deteriorating Security in Kunduz Province

following on my last post on the summary of the situation in this post I will analyse:

The Dynamics of Power and Politics in Kunduz

The Northern Alliance which consists of Jamiat Islami, Ittahad Islami, Junbish Islami, Hizb Wahadat and smaller Tanzims[1] gained power after the fall of Taliban, on the insistence of the West and particularly the US Hamed Karzai was installed as the president but for the first few years he lacked any real power and all important official positions below the president on the national level was occupied by northern alliance.

One of the key challenges Karzai faced during his entire term was to make the government national by reducing the influence of military political faction, i.e. Northern alliance and make the government inclusive by giving place to Pashtuns in the government. Hamid Karzai installed a range of Pashtuns and Tajik technocrats at important positions in Kabul and Pashtuns to replace Northern Alliance at provincial level. Most Pashtuns were formerly members of Hizbi Islami or Taliban, the staunch enemy of Northern Alliance.

Kunduz traditionally have had strong Tanzim presence with strong local commanders, the provincial capital of Kunduz was overrun by Jihadists early in August 1988 right after Soviet combat troops withdraw from the city garrison but was recaptured by the government forces that only remained in control of the provincial capital.[2] Hizb, Jamiat and Ittahad have had military base in Kunduz, some of the strongest commanders such as Aref Khan, Arbab Mohammad Hashem,  Mirza Mohammad Naseri, Latif and Rauf Ibrahimi defected to Taliban and in the post 2001 climate where power was assigned by the US they remained marginalised or were killed. In addition, several hundred sub-commanders of Kunduz that surrendered to Northern Alliance with their 4000 men in 2001 were massacred by Dustom men in Dasht lailly. Two commanders of Jamiat Gen. Daud Daud and Mir Alam became the most influential strongmen of Kunduz after successfully reducing most opponents with assistance from the US military.
General Daud and Mir Alam run Kunduz like a fiefdom, this was not acceptable for the Kabul government, in an attempt to break their grip Karzai lured Gen. Daud to Kabul by appointing him as the national deputy minister of interior in 2004.
Mir Alam for his influence was not bestowed with a position in the government. A state position would greatly enhance his legitimacy and contact with regional, national and international powers. He started to cause trouble for the Kabul regime, for instance in 2005 Mir Alam men launched several attacks on Afghan police and security forces.[3] This is just before the parliamentary election when security is paramount; in order to ensure security Karzai’s most viable choice was to reward Mir Alam with a senior position in the government. Mir Alam was appointed chief of police of neighbouring Baghlan province in June 2005. To become the chief of police, he had to hand over a large cache of 765 weapons plus ammunition to Motaleb Beg as part of the deal.[4]  Mir Alam soon found himself in quarrel with another Jamiat strongman, the commander of the North and Northeast Highway Police brigade turned 20th AMF Brigade, Abdul Khalil Andarabi. According to US government information, they competed for the control of drug traffic routes[5]. Since Andarabi and his influential father, Juma Khan, originated from this province, he apparently gathered more supporters and edged out Mir Alam.

From 2009 with the US military surge and the accompanying worsening security situation Shurai Nazar faction and Jamiat Islami also successfully used efforts to contain the Taliban to improve their own power position.

In 2010 the Americans enlisted Mir Alam among others to run the Arbaki programme in Kunduz. He received millions in cash and weapon in exchange for fighting the Taliban, which very often meant his political opponents.[6] Given military power without any political strain meant that Mir Alam men had a free rein in looting the villagers with impunity.

In September 2010, the appointments of two other famous commanders of Jamiat also affected the security set up in Kunduz. General Daud returned as 303rd Pamir Police Zone commander to the north. The charismatic Sayedkheli became the Kunduz provincial chief of police. He had gained a legendary reputation in Shura-ye Nazar as the defender of his home area, Shomali near Kabul, against Taliban and Pakistani forces in the late 1990s. In Kunduz, Sayedkheli successfully sidelined the mayor of Kunduz City, Mohammad Ghulam Farhad, a Pashtoon who supported Taliban in the 1990s.

Bismillah, Daud, and Sayedkheli  all Shurai Nizar of Jamiat acted as trio in fighting the Taliban in Kunduz. From his ministerial position, Bismillah provided 1,125 ALP positions for the organisational chart (tashkeel) of the province in addition to the original 1,810 regular ANP officers. Of these ALP positions, 300 each went to Chahar Dara, Dasht-e Archi, and Imam Sahib, while Kunduz district received 225. In Kunduz, Sayedkheli therefore could use the ALP positions to establish a clientele. Mir Alam’s force, which was mainly in Khanabad, was not integrated. Since no complaints by him are known, it seems that he preferred to remain in the NDS-operated Arbaki programme. Nabi Gechi on the other hand, who had fought previously against Shura-ye Nazar got nothing.

In October 2010, Sayedkheli negotiated successfully with Taleban leaders in who had previously fought on the insurgents’ side. He persuaded them with positive incentives – assets in the form of ALP positions and goods from the internationally funded Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) to ‘reintegrate’ insurgents – and with threats – such as bringing down the wrath of the mighty US army on them. These successful negotiations allowed Sayedkheli’s ANP and US infantry forces, together with militias led by Mir Alam and another Shurai Nizar subcommander Nawid, to recapture Aliabad and the south of Chahar Dara district in October and November 2010.

The US surge of 2010 and the Afghan militia campaign delivered a serious blow to the Taliban in Kunduz; after 2010, they did not control significant territory anymore. However, they continued to exist as an armed group and successfully changed their strategy, refocusing on clandestine operations.



[1] A political and military organisation that is expanding since the demise of the monarchy.  A Tanzim is a conglomerate of local commanders who are loose loyal to the organization for foreign support and balancing regional power structure.

[2] Soviets Complying On Afghan Withdrawal, U.S. Says, August 16, 1988|By Thom Shanker, Chicago Tribun http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1988-08-16/news/8801230289_1_afghan-withdrawal-soviet-soldiers-afghan-army

[3] Schetter and Glassner, ‘Neither Functioning, nor Failing . . .’, [see FN 5], 145
[4] Radio Afghanistan, ‘Commander Surrenders Weapons in Afghan North’, BBC Monitoring South Asia, 25 June 2005; Stapleton, ‘Disarming the Militias . . .’, [see FN 123], 7–8.
[5] US Embassy Kabul, ‘Kunduz Politics . . .’, [see FN 142]
[6] Commander Rauf of the Ibrahimi family of Hezbi Islami Tanzim integrated surrendered Taliban fighters into his force and occupied the old fortress of Kunduz, Bala Hisar. Mir Alam group called in US warplane and bombed the fortress. Rauf had to move from his position, which was immediately taken by Mir Alam’s men.  Interview with police officer and former fighter of Jamiat, Kunduz, December 2012; International Crisis Group, ‘Disarmament and Reintegration . . .’, [see FN 72], 10

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