The Cable

The Afghan Vice President Was Just Denied Entry to Afghanistan

It’s the latest sign of a political crisis roiling the country.

Afghan politician and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani (C) talks as his two vice-presidential candidates, former warlord Abdul Rahid Dostum (L), and former justice minister, Sarwar Danish (R), look on during registration for the forthcoming presidential elections at the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Kabul on October 6, 2013. Afghanistan's presidential election race sparked a last-minute rush of candidates as nominations closed for next April's poll, with former finance minister Ashraf Ghani among the leading names to register. AFP PHOTO/ Massoud HOSSAINI        (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan politician and former finance minister Ashraf Ghani (C) talks as his two vice-presidential candidates, former warlord Abdul Rahid Dostum (L), and former justice minister, Sarwar Danish (R), look on during registration for the forthcoming presidential elections at the Independent Election Commission (IEC) in Kabul on October 6, 2013. Afghanistan's presidential election race sparked a last-minute rush of candidates as nominations closed for next April's poll, with former finance minister Ashraf Ghani among the leading names to register. AFP PHOTO/ Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)

A plane carrying General Abdul Rashid Dostum, Afghan vice president and former warlord, was  turned away after trying to land in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The vice president’s plane reportedly was forced to land in neighboring Turkmenistan, where Dostum remains.

Dostum traveled to Turkey in May, ostensibly for medical treatment, though his stay there was something closer to exile. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani chose Dostum as his vice president after the 2014 elections, but the two are embroiled in a mounting power struggle.

“The central government, against all the laws of Afghanistan and the world, against the fact that the president cannot rule an ordinary citizen — let alone the vice president — a criminal until proven by a court, told the plane not to land,” Raees Abdul Khaliq, a provincial council member who waited at the airport for Dostum’s unsuccessful return, told the New York Times.

Senior officials confirmed the account, but Dostum’s office later denied that he was on the plane that was turned back from Mazar-i-Sharif.

The vice president is also mired in a criminal investigation. Ahmad Ischi, a political rival, accused Dostum and his bodyguards of kidnapping, beating, and sexually assaulting him in November. In January, Afghanistan’s attorney general issued orders for the arrests of nine people, mostly bodyguards, in Dostum’s employ.

While in Ankara in July, Dostum and several other Afghan ethnic minority leaders formed a new alliance, called the Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan, to put pressure on Ghani to stop the investigation into Dostum, hold elections, and share power with other leaders.

The general helped the United States overthrow the Taliban in 2001. The U.S. State Department once called him the “quintessential warlord” — before deciding his brutality and swagger were a nuisance and threatening him by flying a B-1 bomber over his home a few years later. Dostum is suspected of killing hundreds of Taliban prisoners during the war.

MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a contributing writer at Foreign Policy. @BethanyAllenEbr

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