Warlord Dostum’s return worries US

KABUL: The United States expressed serious concern to the Afghan government on Monday over the return of a feared warlord just days before key elections whose preparations have been marred by backroom deals.

General Abdul Rashid Dostum is a notorious ally of President Hamid Karzai, who is expected to win a second term in office on Thursday in Afghanistan’s second presidential election. But he could be forced into a run-off.

Dostum is a leader of Afghanistan’s Uzbek minority based largely in the north — away from Karzai’s ethnic Pashtun strongholds further south.

The United States made clear to the Afghan government “its serious concerns about the prospective role of Dostum in today’s Afghanistan and particularly during these historic elections,” said the US embassy in Kabul.

Dostum was based in Turkey for around a year. In 2008, he was accused of drunkenly attacking a rival in Kabul, provoking a police siege outside his home and sparking Uzbek protests in the north.His faction has been accused of war crimes, including during the civil war of the early 1990s, and he is allegedly involved in drug running.

“The issues surrounding him become all the more acute with his return to Afghanistan during this period,” said the US embassy. “Among other concerns, his reputed past actions raise questions of his culpability for massive human rights violations.” Shortly before his return late Sunday, Karzai’s office released a statement saying there were “no legal obstacles” to Dostum’s return.

The president has faced widespread criticism for

his controversial alliances with warlords, including on Sunday during his first live television debate with his leading challengers running against him in Thursday’s election.

The alleged deals, which could see Karzai win the August 20 vote, have disillusioned Afghans and Western backers of the country’s move towards democracy.