Afghanistan » Politics

Preventing General Dostum from returning and the prospects of political crisis

Published Date: July 22, 2017

 

Reports were released last week that suggested Dostum’s plane was not allowed to land in Balkh’s airport and that it was returned to Turkmenistan and then to Turkey. Issuing a statement, however, the office of General Dostum denied these reports and said that Dostum was in Turkey.

It comes at a time that recently political tensions and disputes have reached its new heights, and the ongoing political crisis in the country is intensified. People are concerned about gaps between the high government officials, the formation of new coalitions against the government and the increasing insecurity in the country.

What were the facts in the issue of Dostum’s return and the denial of Afghan landing? Which party prevented Dostum’s plane from landing and what it meant? Taking these issues into consideration, to which direction is the ongoing political crisis headed?

 

Preventing Dostum’s plane from landing

The internal and international media last Tuesday reported that a plane carrying Dostum from Turkey to the Balkh province was denied landing but Dostum’s office rejecting the reports and has said that General Dostum will soon return to Afghanistan and will attend a ceremony to launch the coalition for the salvation of Afghanistan.

The spokesman for the governor of Balkh province Moneer Ahmad Farhad said that the reports about preventing Dostum’s plane from landing were not accurate. Nevertheless, he confirmed that on Tuesday night a plane had left Turkey for Balk province but could not land due to technical problems and, therefore, was returned to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.

On his Facebook page, the governor of Balkh Ata Mohammad Noor wrote that the plane carried some officials and engineers of the Turkish Institute TiKA. [1]

On the other hand, New York Time has written in an article that after two months of potential deportation in Turkey and formation of an anti-government coalition, General Dostum tried to return to Afghanistan to continue his opposition against the presidential palace. The report states that while hundreds of the supporter of General Dostum, carrying slogans “welcome dear leader”, had gone to the airport to welcome him, his plane was denied landing due to the direction of the central government. New York Times writes that a commander of General Dostum and a source close to Ata Mohammad Noor have confirmed the incident. [2] Quoting the Afghan officials, foreign policy has written that hundreds of Dostum’s supporters were waiting for him at the airport but his plane was not permitted to land. [3]  

While NATO has also confirmed the report about Dostum’s plane being returned from Balkh airport, its denial by the governor of Balkh and General Dostum indicates the political pressure on them. Germans in the formation of NATO are responsible for controlling the Mazar-e-Sharif Airport and, therefore, some sources reported that Germans prevented the plane’s landing but, confirming the reports about the plane’s return, Resolute Support Mission has said foreign troops were involved in neither preventing the plane’s landing nor facilitating it. The spokesperson of NATO forces has told reporters that their job was not to intervene in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. [4] There exist speculations that the plane was denied landing by the President’s order.  

 

What does preventing Dostum’s return mean?

While being under pressure due to the issue of sexual assault on Ahmad Eshchi, the former governor of Jawzjan province, General Dostum went to Turkey two months ago and apparently his purpose was medical treatment. At the heights of the political crisis, Dostum formed a coalition against the government alongside Ata Mohammad Noor and Mohammad Mohaqiq.

After announcing the formation of the “Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan” in Turkey, there were reports that the head of the National Directorate of Security had traveled to Turkey and had demanded from Dostum to leave the coalition and return to the country, but he had rejected the offer. After that, the Afghan government tried to pressurize Dostum by emphasizing on the investigations into the Eshchi’s case and the Office of the Afghan Attorney General announced that Eshchi’s file was sent to the Supreme Court one month ago.

Later-on, the European Union and the US Embassy[5] in Afghanistan also announced that the case of sexual assault on Eshchi was a serious issue and had to be legally investigated.

On the other hand, speaking to a gathering of his supporters after his return to the country, Ata Mohammad Noor said, “the Coalition for the salvation of Afghanistan will be unbreakable. There are despotism and dictatorship in the current regime; ministers do not have any authority, and the country is being governed by three or four specific individuals.”

In an interview with BBC, the second deputy of the Chief Executive also criticized the National Unity Government (NUG) and emphasized that the President must implement the NUG agreement. He also said that they would undertake “next measures” if their demands were not met. [6]

Hence, in the absence of General Dostum, the political weight of the new coalition will decrease, and it is said that preventing Dostum from entering the country, on the one hand, is an effort to weaken the alliance, and, on the other hand, it is aimed to pressurize General Dostum.

 

 

The future of the current political crisis in the country

If General Dostum returns to the country, since he was antagonized for the issue of preventing his plane from landing in Balkh, he will undertake some dangerous steps which will further deepen the crisis in the country.

On the other hand, days after announcing the formation of the new coalition in Turkey, another circle under the name of ‘national axis’ also voiced their discontent with the government. Most of these coalitions go beyond political oppositions, and they contain government officials in their combinations as well, and these people are partly responsible for the current situation too.

Although there are analysts who believe that some steps by the Presidential Palace has caused the discontent of some politically influential figures but that the government will win in the end, it seems that the political crisis in the country is getting complicated day after day and people are concerned in this regard.

The Afghan Independent Election Commission also announced the schedule for the Parliamentary elections and since Hezb-e-Islami is preparing for these elections and most of these oppositions are also rooted in elections as well, the political crisis is unlikely to decrease soon.

Nonetheless, these concerns do not mean that the current political crisis will force the NUG at the verge of collapse. The foreigners’ intervene in the case of General Dostum, and Ahmad Eshchi means that the government has their support and the political oppositions of the government will not benefit from further oppositions. 

[1] Asia News, «چه کسی مانع فرود هواپیمای «دوستم» در شمال شد؟» [Who prevented Dostum’s plane from landing in the North?], 28 Saratan 1396 solar year:

http://www.asianews.af/18445

[2] The New York Times, Afghan Vice President’s Return Thwarted as Plane Is Turned Back, July 18, 2017, see online:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/18/world/asia/afghanistan-dostum-ghani-plane.html

And: Plane Believed to Carry Afghan Vice President Diverted From Landing, July 18, 2017, see online:

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2017/07/18/world/asia/18reuters-afghanistan-politics.html

[3] foreign Policy, The Afghan Vice President Was Just Denied Entry to Afghanistan, July 18, 2017, see online:

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/18/the-afghan-vice-president-was-just-denied-entry-to-afghanistan-dostum-ghani/

 [4] BBC Pashto, «ناټو: د دوستم الوتکې ته د ناستې لپاره د مرستې غوښتنه را نه وشوه» [NATO: we were asked for help in  landing Dostum’s plane], 27 Saratan 1396: http://www.bbc.com/pashto/afghanistan-40640014

&, VOA, «ناتو ممانعت از نشست طیارۀ دوستم را در بلخ تایید کرد» [NATO confirmed preventing Dostum’s plane from landing], 27 Saratan 1396:

https://www.darivoa.com/a/general-dustom-office-rejected-his-returning-to-Mazar-e-Sharif/3948533.html

 

[6] BBC Persian, «محقق: ‘ائتلاف’ ما برای اصلاح حکومت افغانستان است نه سقوط آن» [Mohaqiq: our coalition intend to reform the government not to collapse it], 19 Saratan 1396 solar year:

  http://www.bbc.com/persian/afghanistan-40553274

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