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.
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