Karzai vows to punish renegade commander: official
KABUL: A renegade commander blamed for violence that left dozens dead and injured in Afghanistan last month will be treated as a criminal and punished, President Hamid Karzai has told elders from the affected region.
His comments coincided with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission saying it suspected that commander Amanullah Khan had been behind the beheading and skinning of several supporters of the governor’s men during the four days of fighting in Herat.
Amanullah has been summoned to Kabul to prevent further bloodshed in Herat and also to face justice for what he has done, a Karzai official quoted him as telling a delegation of elders from the city, 700 km (435 miles) west of the capital.
Karzai made the pledge on Saturday after a delegation of Herat’s locals asked him to put Amanullah on trial.
“The president told the delegation that whoever has attacked is a criminal and will be punished,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
He did not elaborate. Amanullah was not immediately available to comment.
Amanullah agreed to a US-brokered ceasefire after sweeping through several government strongholds including Shindand airbase south of Herat city in August.
The fighting came amid rising violence by the ousted Taliban and their Islamic militant allies ahead of landmark presidential elections on October 9.
Herat — which accounts for around 8 percent of the 10 million Afghans registered to vote — is ruled by Governor Ismail Khan, a legendary commander from the time of the Soviet mujahideen war and a one-time prisoner of the Taliban. .
His ethnic Tajik forces have been involved in several clashes since Karzai’s US-backed government was installed after the Taliban’s overthrow in late 2001.
Amanullah like Karzai and many of the Taliban are Pashtuns, the traditional rulers of Afghanistan. He accuses Ismail Khan of failing to accommodate him in the local administration.
Ismail Khan suspects that some Taliban remnants supported Amanullah and that members of Karzai’s cabinet encouraged his offensive.
He has also called for Amanullah to be put on trial.
Some 18,000 US-led troops and Kabul’s newly trained Afghan National Army are hunting remnants of the ousted Taliban and other militants in the Pashtun-dominated south and east.
Further escalation of the fighting in Herat might damage Karzai’s standing with non-Pashtuns in an election which is set to be dominated by security and ethnic issues.
The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, brokered a truce on August 17, stepping in at Karzai’s behest to help stop the conflict from further stirring ethnic tensions. reuters