A swaggering warlord with an affinity for booze and hookers — who once allegedly ordered a soldier accused of stealing to be flattened by a tank — has reportedly vowed to lead the fight against the marauding Taliban in Afghanistan.
“This time I will really kill you!” declared Abdul Rashid Dostum, a 67-year-old militia leader and former Afghan vice president who has just returned from medical treatment in Turkey, The Sun reported.
“They will never escape. They will all be killed. I will turn northern Afghanistan into the graveyard of the Taliban,” the former general added after arriving in Mazar-i-Sharif with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, according to the outlet.
Despite being tied to a series of war crimes, the Afghan government hopes the aging warrior’s military prowess and seething hatred of the Taliban can help push back the insurgents, who on Friday captured three more provincial capitals in the country.
The communist commander and his band of commandos joined the battle for Mazar-i-Sharif after his nearby Sheberghan stronghold was captured by the Taliban, according to Agence France-Presse.
Dostum, the son of Uzbek peasants who hails from the northern Jawzjan province, has forged a reputation as a ruthless survivor over 40 years of conflict in the war-torn country.
In the 1970s, he enlisted in the Soviet-backed Afghan military and rose quickly through the ranks, but abandoned the government when it collapsed in the early 1990s, when he often switched sides between militia factions during the brutal civil war.
Over the years, Dostum survived multiple assassination attempts by both the Taliban and ISIS. He fled the country during the Taliban’s rise to power but later made a dramatic return as a CIA asset during the US-led invasion that toppled his old enemies, AFP reported.
He was accused of numerous atrocities, including killing hundreds, if not thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war in 2001, when he allegedly stuffed insurgents into shipping containers where they suffocated.
A Pakistani journalist who once visited Dostum outside Mazar, noticed there were smears of blood and pieces of flesh in a courtyard, according to a 2001 report in the Independent.
At first he thought a goat must have been killed, but guards told him that Dostum had earlier ordered a soldier accused of stealing to be tied to the tracks of a tank that drove around until he was reduced to mincemeat.
When the Taliban were ousted, Dostum once again rose through the military ranks and eventually became veep in Ghani’s administration, during which he allegedly tortured and raped a political rival.
After another temporary exile, the cunning commander engineered another return and by 2020 was officially awarded the rank of “marshal” in the Afghan military.