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Warlords of Afghanistan

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Afghanistan is a country with a long history of weak central governments and that has resulted in a long history of warlords and strongmen filling the void of the government in remote areas where the governments control and influence is diminished. Some of the more famous warlords known by Westerners are Rashid Dostum, Rassul Sayyaf, Gul Agha Sherzai, Ata Mohammad Nur, Muhammad Mohaqiq, Matiullah Khan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ismail Khan, Abdul Raziq, and Mohammad Fahim. However there are many more whose names are not as recognizable yet whose power and influence was/is almost as strong.

Papers and Publications about Warlords in Afghanistan
(listed in chronological order)

Derksen, Deedee, Non-State Security Providers and Political Formation in Afghanistan, Centre for Security Governance, No. 3, March 2016.

Human Rights Watch, Today We Shall All Die: Afghanistan's Strongmen and the Legacy of Impunity, March 2015.

Derksen, Deedee. Transition in Uruzgan (2): Power at the centre, Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), June 12, 2013. This piece provides info on the power struggles in this province, support given to various political factions by the U.S., Australians, and Dutch, and the warlord Mattiullah Khan.

Human Rights Watch, Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanitan's Legacy of Impunity, 2005. An accounting of the Battle for Kabul from April 1992 to April 1993 that followed the collapse of the Soviet-backed government in Kabul.

News Reports about Warlords in Afghanistan

April 22, 2021. "Afghanistan Sees Resurgence of Warlords, In Familar Echo of Civil War", by Frud Bezhan, Gandhara Blog, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. With the withdrawal of international forces by the fall of 2021 local and regional warlords are re-establishing their private militias in anticipation of a new era of civil war.

December 1, 2018. "Aghanistan's battle against warlords", The Hindu. The arrest of a Hazara powerbroker that controls private militias prompted big protests in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

January 4, 2018. "Mafia politics threaten Afghan security as much as insurgency does", by Javid Ahmad, The Hill.

May 7, 2015. "Afghanistan: Where Warlords Fear to Tread". By Patrick Knapp in The Diplomat. Afghanistan's complexity refuses to fade as quickly as its strategic importance.

April 12, 2015. "Afghanistan's defining fight: Technocrats vs. strongmen". By Sudarsan Raghavan, The Washington Post.

April 8, 2015. "Shades of Gray in Afghanistan". The Diplomat. A former U.S. Army brigade commander writes on his experience of working with one of Afghanistan's warlords - Matiullah Khan.

March 20, 2015. "America's Warlords in Afghanistan". The American Conservative. This article by Kelley Vlahos tells us that the United States created a new generation of abusive strongmen that are now running rampant in Afghanistan.

March 3, 2015. "Afghanistan: Abusive Strongmen Escape Justice". Human Rights Watch.

October 26, 2014. "Afghanistan: Warlords and Democracy". By Sohrab Rahmaty - The Diplomat. Some of Afghanistan's warlords have decided to buy into the political process.

October 17, 2014. "From 'Slavers' to 'Warlords': Descriptions of Afghanistan's Uzbeks in western writing". Christian Bleuer of Afghanistan Analysts Network writes about how the Uzbeks have received an inaccurate reputation for producing warlords - most notably Rashid Dostum.

October 13, 2014. "My Terrifying Night with Afghanistan's Only Female Warlord". By Jen Percy - New Republic. A visit to "Commander Pigeon" - also known as Bibi Ayisha.

July 27, 2014. "The Warlord Who Defines Afghanistan". By Bruce Riedel - An examination of the Uzbek Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum - a useful subject to study for those seeking to understand the violent politics of Afghanistan over the last half-century.

May 28, 2014. "A Warlord, a Drug Smuggler, and a Killer: Meet the Men Poised to Rule Afghanistan", By Gary Owen, VICE News. Details on Abdul Rashid Dostum, General Abdul Raziq, and Commander Azizullahare.

April 22, 2014. "The warlords of Afghanistan". By Anup Kaphle - The Washington Post.

October 16, 2013. "Afghan Elections: The Warlords Are Back". By Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai - The Daily Beast. Several prominent warlords have thrown their hat in the ring. A article about Abdul Rasul Sayyaf - the onetime mentor of Osama bin Laden and now a powerful anti-Taliban voice.

September 23, 2013. "Return of the Lion: Former Warlord Preps for Western Withdrawal". By Christian Neef - Spiegel Online International. Article about Ismail Khan - former warlord, mujahedeen, and governor of Herat province.

November 27, 2012. "At the mercy of Afghanistan's warlords". By Rustam Qobil, BBC News Magazine. This article discusses the power of the warlords in Takhar province in northeast Afghanistan.

July 29, 2012. "Taking Tea with Afghanistan's most fearsome warlord, General Abdul Rashid Dostum". By Magsie Hamiliton-Little, The Telegraph. Dostum gives an interview at his Kabul home.

July 25, 2012. "Former Afghan Warlords Dispute Leaked Report Linking Them to Atrocities". Radio Free Europe. An unpublished report implicates many in the country's devastating civil war in the 1990s when many atrocities occurred.

February 27, 2011. "Afghan parliament elects ex-warlord as speaker". Reuters. Article on the former Uzbek warlord Abdul Rahoof Ibrahimi.

February 25, 2010. "Don't Call That Warlord a Warlord". By Antonio Giustozzi in Foreign Policy. In Afghanistan, the term is no longer useful - - though it should be.

May 11, 2009. "The warlords casting a shadow over Afghanistan". By Patrick Cockburn - The Independent. The warlords are brutal, bloodthirsty - and becoming increasingly influential in Afghan politics.

February 12, 2009. "The Warlords of Afghanistan". By Aryn Baker - With the U.S.-backed government unable to maintain security, local strongmen are wielding more power than ever - and causing ordinary Afghans to lose faith in the West.

February 18, 2002. "Warlords and Leaders". By Ann Marlowe. The hidden agendas behind press coverage of the Afghan war and some information about Rashid Dostum - not quite the warlord he is accused of being.


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