Alliance rifts leave Taliban Afghanistan'slikely victors

A calamitous split in the alliance ranged against the Taliban has opened the way for a fresh offensive by the Afghan fundamentalists.

No military victory could have been as valuable to them as the rift in the ranks of General Rashid Dostum, who has resisted the northwards advance of the Taliban since the autumn.

The defection to their side of General Abdul Malik, the Alliance's de facto Foreign Affairs minister, means that, at a single stroke, General Dostum has lost control of the areas to the west of his capital, Mazar- i-Sharif. This leaves his troops on the far western front hopelessly isolated; their defeat, which according to some reports is already a fact, would allow the Taliban to begin the final advance on Mazar, the key to the remaining third of the country not yet under their control.

Unlike the eastern front, the terrain the Taliban must cross is almost perfectly flat and an easy prospect for any mechanised army. They are already scenting victory. In a statement from Kandahar, the Taliban headquarters, Mullah Moham-med, the movement's reclusive leader, said that anyone surrendering voluntarily would be spared by the regime.

But he said: "Those forced to surrender by the Taliban will face Islam courts." No one in Mazar has forgotten what this meant for Mohammed Najibullah, the former Afghan president. On the fall of Kabul last September, the Taliban strung him up from a lamppost.

The routing of General Dostum has implications for the whole of central Asia. Mazar's population is already to swollen to many times its normal size by refugees from all over the country - some of them covert Taliban sympathisers, although many are not. The arrival of the fundamentalists, Western aid workers fear, could drive hundreds of thousands of refugees north across the borders of the central Asian republics.

The great worry is that sectarian warfare could spread. Tajikistan, which is only now emerging from a five-year civil war of its own, is seen as being particularly vulnerable.

General Dostum isn't finished yet, however. Mazar is still calm; he possesses a considerable number of tanks and fighters, and has been kept well supplied over the winter months by Russia, Iran and Uzbekistan, all of which are anxious to prevent Taliban's success.

General Dostum's current whereabouts are unknown. But if he can establish a second Western front, he may be able to survive. Much depends on the loyalty of his main ally in the east, the ethnic Tajik leader, Ahmed Shah Masoud; although last night there were unconfirmed reports of fighting in towns even to the east of Mazar.

Speculation as to what motivated General Malik, would-be architect of General Dostum's doom, is rife. Although his father, like General Dostum is an Uzbek, his mother is a Pashtun, the same ethnic minority as the Taliban. General Malik initially said his defection was for the sake of "national unity" and accused General Dostum of being a "bad muslim" and the main obstacle to peace; but such sentiments are suspiciously close to the official Taliban line to be given much credence.

He may simply have been bought - this has been one of the Taliban's most successful tactics in their 18 months advance across the country. Last year, one commander (who remains loyal to Dostum) was offered $11m (pounds 7m) to capitulate.

Still another theory is that General Malik is fighting a blood feud in the classic Afghan style. His family used to be headed by his brother, Rasool Palhawn, who rose to prominence as General Dostum's deputy. Last June, Mr Rasool was mysteriously assassinated by his bodyguard - on the orders, some say, of General Dostum himself. Mr Rasool was, some say, was simply getting too big for his boots. If the story is true, then General Malik has wreak-ed ample revenge.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
An Apple iPhone 6 stands on display at the Apple Store
businessRegulators give iPhone 6 and 6 Plus the green light
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pricing Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style