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US denies visa to Afghan visa president Dostum

Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum has been denied a US visa for his activities as a warlord, including the alleged killing of hundreds of Taliban prisoners in 2001.

world Updated: Apr 26, 2016 11:30 IST
HT Correspondent
File photo of Abdul Rashid Dostum
File photo of Abdul Rashid Dostum(Generaldostum.com)

Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum has been denied a US visa for his activities as a warlord, including the alleged killing of hundreds of Taliban prisoners by his militia, according to a media report.

Dostum, a leader from the ethnic Uzbek minority, is the second-ranking official in Afghanistan. Though he was eager to visit Washington and discuss how best to overcome the Taliban, US officials found themselves in the unusual position of threatening to deny him a visa this month, The New York Times reported.

The message was passed to the Afghan government days before Dostum was to leave for a trip to New York and Washington, the newspaper quoted multiple Afghan and US officials as saying.

To avoid a “humiliating public spectacle”, the Afghan government quietly canceled Dostum’s visit, the report said.

Dostum said in an interview on Saturday with Voice of America that the tenuous security situation in Afghanistan had required him to cancel the trip, which was to include an address to a special session of the UN General Assembly on narcotics trafficking.

“I personally intend to visit as soon as the situation here allows,” Dostum said. He said he had many friends in Washington - “I am well acquainted with our Pentagon friends and congressmen” - and that he would tell them how things were in Afghanistan.

“I want to discuss the situation with them,” he said. “They have to take this issue seriously. Otherwise, it might get out of control.”

The State Department did not comment on the development, saying it could not discuss individual visa cases for privacy reasons.

“But for years, there has been broad agreement among US officials about Dostum, who stands apart for his brutal past even when measured against the alleged crimes and misdeeds of many of the people the US has relied on during the war in Afghanistan,” the report said.

“Dostum’s ascent to the vice presidency of Afghanistan, despite his past, exemplifies a central American failure in a war it is now fighting for the 15th year. In its effort to defeat the Taliban, the US has built and paid for a government that is filled with the kinds of warlords and power brokers whose predatory ways helped give rise to the insurgent movement in the 1990s, and who US officials say pose as much of a threat to the stability of Afghanistan as the insurgents themselves,” it added.

Though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani once described Dostum as a “known killer”, he later courted the warlord to help secure votes from Uzbeks in the 2014 presidential election.

At the outset of the war against the Taliban, Dostum fought alongside Central Intelligence Agency operatives and Special Operations forces to oust the militant group, the report said.

Dostum fell out of favor with his US patrons over his open defiance of the new government in Kabul, it added.

President Barack Obama said in 2009 his administration would investigate the allegations of war crimes against Dostum, which centre on the killing of hundreds of Taliban prisoners by his militia in 2001.