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Afghan Warlords Clash with President Over Power

Afghanistan is passing through a critical moment of its modern political history as two warlords pose a brazen challenge to the authority of the president.

KABUL, Afghanistan — The rule of law has been starkly challenged in Afghanistan as a governor and a police chief have defied orders from the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani.

Atta Mohammad Noor, the unseated long-serving governor of Balkh province, was ordered to step down by Mr. Ghani during the country’s 34 provincial governors shake up but refused.

Gen. Abdul Raziq also rejected Kabul’s call to step down and said, “This government has neither appointed me, nor can it remove me. I have been appointed based on the demands of Kandahar people and I will leave based on Kandahar residents’ demands.”

Gen. Abdul Raziq

He went on beyond this, calling the government “a coalition” one instead of “elected.”

This was a reference to the compromise foundations of the National Unity Government (NUG) in Kabul brokered by the former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after hotly contested presidential elections in 2014. The elections saw Mr. Ghani as the winner, but his rival Abdullah Abdullah declined to accept the results pushing the country on the verge of yet another civil war. Since then, Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah have managed to hold the NUG together despite many public and behind the scene differences.

The latest political turmoil stems from a notification issued by the country’s Independent Directorate of Local Governments (IDLG) last month stating that Mr. Ghani had approved the resignation of Mr. Noor from his official post without mentioning when and why the longstanding governor of the strategically important province resigned.

Atta Mohammad Noor

Mr. Noor, however, claims his draft resignation was conditional with more power and perks for his Jamiat-e-Islami party – which has been in power since the fall of the Taliban – and it remained not valid under current conditions “when the Arg [Presidential Palace] has not accepted the demands.”

Since 2004, Mr. Noor had been the governor of the Balkh province bordering Uzbekistan. Mr. Noor’s Jamiat party has been in power since 2001 thanks to the U.S. arms and support in toppling the Taliban regime. Many ministries, including the security sector, are overwhelmingly occupied by Jamiat members and loyalists.

Addressing a gathering in the provincial capital Mazar-e-Sharif last month, Mr. Noor lashed out at his own party mate and President Ghani’s power-sharing Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

“Abdullah is ‘a snake up everyone’s sleeve… he has been trying to divide the party after having risen to power through Jamiat [party]… We will break your teeth,” Mr. Noor said referring to Mr. Abdullah.

He went on to warn the Presidential Palace and the CEO’s office against using the international community and foreign forces present in Afghanistan to put pressure on him.

Among NATO members present in Afghanistan, Germany has its strong military presence in Balkh, the province so far governed by Atta. Last month, two top German officials, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabrial and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Afghanistan.

When contacted, Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman for the President, told The Globe Post that the government has “not terminated” Governor Noor, but his own resignation has been accepted. In regard to Mr. Noor’s outburst, he called it personal views of a politician.

Earlier this year, Mr. Noor entered formal negotiations over power-sharing matters with the president without informing Abdullah Abdullah. However, the talks ended without any results. He then formed a new anti-government coalition together with Vice President Abdul Rasheed Dostum – who is in Turkey on self-imposed exile after facing allegations of torture and sexual assault at home – and Deputy CEO Mohammad Mohaqiq. According to the local Azadi Radio, Gen. Raziq is also supportive of this alliance.

Writer and analyst Ashiqullah Yaqub told The Globe Post that the persistence of this situation can prove detrimental to the state-building process in the country reeling from years of bloodshed. “Atta Mohammd Noor and his Jamiat party are power-sharing partners in the government, and if they challenge the writ of the government in such a way it sets a very negative precedence for others to follow.”

As the power struggle rages on, insurgent groups continue to strike deep inside the major urban centers. Terrorists killed more than 60 civilians in two deadly attacks in Kabul and Jalalabad cities in a week.

US Support for Warlords Continues to Destabilize Afghanistan

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