Afghanistan: November 21, 2003


In a fresh bid to end a long-running feud between rival warlords, Afghan government authorities collected 38 tanks from Tajik commander Ustad Atta Mohammad at the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and moved them to a compound outside the city.

However, the disarmament drive had been expected to gather over 100 tanks (along with heavy weapons) from the 7th and 8th Corps, which are loyal to ethnic Tajik General Atta Mohammad and Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostam, respectively.
Dostam is responsible for the low yield of this diplomatic move. While expressing his support for the central government's plan to win control over the unruly region, he has declined to say how many heavy weapons he planned to surrender (or when). Dostum and Atta are both officially members of Karzai's government but also bitter rivals, whose forces have clashed repeatedly since helping to overthrow the Taliban in 2001.

There has been some headway elsewhere in Afghanistan. Around 600 ethnic Tajik fighters associated with Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim turned in their weapons (including more than 20 tanks) outside Gardez in eastern Afghanistan on November 17. 

At least 17 people were killed and dozens wounded in October fighting to the west of Mazar (involving tanks, artillery and mortars), in one of the worst clashes in northern Afghanistan since the Taliban's overthrow. For the most part, the tanks used by the 7th and 8th Corps were obsolete T-55/62 types supplied by the Russians in late 2001 (as material assistance in driving the Taliban out of power). - Adam Geibel


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