Abdul Rashid Dostum: Taliban overruns palace of vodka-loving general behind Dasht-i-Leili massacre

Taliban rebels took over Mazar-i-Sharif, and were seen feasting at the lavish palace of general and former vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum


                            Abdul Rashid Dostum: Taliban overruns palace of vodka-loving general behind Dasht-i-Leili massacre
Abdul Rashid Dostum and a still from the viral video of his house filled with Taliban insurgents (Photo by Suzanne Plunkett-Pool/Getty Images, Twitter/@rezahakbari)

A video that went viral on social media showed dozens of Taliban fighters inside the palace of Abdul Rashid Dostum, on Saturday, August 14. The one-time warlord and former vice-president of Afghanistan, Dostum, commands thousands of fighters after the insurgents took over the northern holy city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Dostum came to Kabul this week, according to Ehsan Nero, a spokesperson for the former army paratrooper and was meeting top authorities to discuss security in Sheberghan, the seat of Jawzjan province. For months, the former vice president has been in Turkey, where he was thought to be undergoing medical care. MEAWW recently reported about the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. President Joe Biden has been heavily criticized for taking a long weekend break at Camp David in western Maryland while major cities of Afghanistan fall to the Taliban in the midst of the Afghan crisis. 

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Afghanistan's decades-long war has not been without controversy. Recently, it was revealed that Russia funded the Taliban to assassinate US troops, which previous former president Donald Trump described as a "hoax." The father of a Marine who had been slain slammed Trump in a New York Times article, which inevitably resulted in a lot of backlash. President Ashraf Ghani went to Mazar-e-Sharif, which is under Taliban siege, on Wednesday, August 10,  to rally his trapped soldiers, according to the AFP news agency.

The viral video of Dostum's house exposes members of the Taliban feasting and relaxing at the former Afghanistan vice president's lavish palace. "Reportedly, this is a video of the Taliban forces in one of Abdul Rashid Dostum’s homes in Sheberghan, the capital of the Jowzjan Province. Dostum was #Afghanistan’s First Vice President from 2014 to 2020," wrote Twitter user Reza H Akbari, who is a program manager at the Institute for War & Peace Reporting for the Middle East and North Africa.



 



 

 

The video shows dozens of allegedly Talibani, sitting on throne-like chairs and sofas and huddled up on the carpet, eating and drinking, talking on their phones or chatting with each other. Some were walking around holding their guns. Baskets and bowls laden with fruit, nuts and other foods filled the tables as guns rested on the floors. 

"The #Taliban have captured Maraz-e-Sharif and are chilling at the {luxurious} house of a top commander of Afghan National Army Abdul Rashid Dostum. Dostum had returned back to #Afghanistan from #Turkey a few days ago but is now forced to escape for border with #Uzbekistan," said a tweet.

"The city of Jalalabad (Afghanistan’s 5th largest) falls “unopposed” to the Taliban. They now control 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, plus the main highway linking Afghanistan to Pakistan (Peshawar). Pro-govt warlords Atta Mohammad Noor & Abdul Rashid Dostum flee," said another Twitter user. Noor is the former governor of Balkh province.



 



 

 

Dostum and Ata Mohammad Noor, former warlords who commanded thousands of fighters, have fled the province Balkh and their whereabouts are unknown. Here's what's to know about Abdul Rashid Dostum .

Who is Abdul Rashid Dostum?

Abdul Rashid Dostum is an Afghan politician, Marshal in the Afghan National Army and founder and leader of the political party Junbish-e Milli. He became Afghanistan's first vice president in 2014, despite a long list of war crimes and claims that he orchestrated the rape and torture of a political competitor, according to the New York Times. He has overseen one of the largest militias in the north, which reportedly fought against the Taliban in the 1990s and also have a reputation of massacring thousands of insurgent prisoners of war. During the Soviet-Afghan War, Dostum was a prominent army commander in the communist regime and in 2001, he was a crucial local partner of US Special Forces and the CIA during the effort to depose the Taliban administration. Since the commencement of the Afghan wars, he has been considered as one of the most powerful and infamous warlords, renowned for siding with winners in many battles, according to the Washington Post.

Dostum was also instrumental in helping US Special Forces topple the Taliban regime following the 9/11 attacks. He has been charged with war crimes, including enabling his soldiers to suffocate thousands of Taliban detainees in sealed truck containers in the Dasht-i-Leili massacre.

Dostum, who was born in 1954 into an Uzbek peasant family, is considered to be liberal and somewhat leftist, according to HuffPost. Women were allowed to go about unveiled in Dostum's northern Afghanistan proto-state before the Taliban took over in 1998, girls were allowed to go to school and study at the University of Balkh, cinemas showed Indian films, music was broadcast on television and Russian vodka and German beer were freely available: activities that the Taliban outlawed. "We will not submit to a government where there is no whisky and no music," he said to his aides during the rise of the Taliban, according to the Independent

Dostum is known to drink alcohol, a rarity in Afghanistan and is apparently a fan of Russian vodka, according to NBC. He reportedly suffered from diabetes, so in 2014 when he became vice president, Dostum reportedly gave up drinking for healthy meals, morning jogs and sensible bedtimes. 

When Mazar-i-Sharif fell to the Taliban on Saturday, August 14, Noor, who was heading local militia troops at the time, stated he and Dostum were safe and blamed the city's collapse on a "conspiracy," according to Reuters. According to provincial officials, Taliban fighters stormed the city practically uncontested as security troops fled up the highway to Uzbekistan. Unverified photos on social media showed Afghan army trucks and uniformed personnel swarming the Hairatan crossing's iron bridge.



 

 

Noor and Dostum's departure highlights the fall of not only the central government in Kabul as insurgents advance but also a generation of prominent provincial leaders from the anti-Soviet Mujahideen who battled the Taliban.

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