Tensions mount between Afghan government, powerful warlord
Tensions are mounting between Afghanistan’s government and a powerful local warlord, with deadly clashes erupting in a rural province between his fighters and government troops. The fear is that the violence could be a harbinger of more chaos as U.S. troops head toward the exits.
The government has launched an assault in central Maidan Wardak province, vowing to punish the warlord, Abdul Ghani Alipoor, after the defense minister accused his fighters of shooting down a military helicopter last week, killing nine personnel.
It’s the latest in a long history of frictions with Alipoor that are increasingly turning bloody. In January, security forces killed at least 11 civilians when they opened fire on protesters, including many Alipoor supporters, in the province’s Behsud district.
Alipoor holds widespread loyalty among ethnic Hazaras, a mainly Shiite community who are a minority in Afghanistan but make up most of the population in Maidan Wardak. Alipoor is one of the many warlords backed by heavily armed militias who hold local power across Afghanistan. The government is allied with some them, but others, like Alipoor, are in frequent confrontation with Kabul, resisting its control.
These warlords are a potential wild card as Afghanistan enters a new phase after decades of war. The United States has committed to removing the last of its troops — though whether it will meet a May 1 deadline remains unclear. It is trying to push the government and the Taliban into a peace deal to ensure the country does not collapse into greater violence or an outright Taliban takeover after the U.S. pullout.
That is proving difficult enough amid continued Taliban offensives. Many fear the warlords could also lash out if they see their many, often conflicting interests being harmed in the peace process…..read more
Source: AP News