Abdul Rashid Dostum is an ethnic Uzbek Afghan military and political leader, and is widely considered to be the leader of the Uzbek community of Afghanistan. During the Soviet military campaign in support of the Communist regime in Kabul, Dostum joined forces with the Soviets against the mujahedeen forces, commanding a pro-Soviet guerilla army, known as the Jowzjani militia. This militia was largely succesful and was one of the only ones that could operate outside of its direct region in the Uzbek-dominated north of Afghanistan. By the time of the Soviet withdrawal, Dostum's army was positioned in Qandahar.
After the collapse of the USSR and Yeltsin's refusal to support the USSR's former allies in Kabul, causing the country to completely collapse. When all international support had faded and the mujahedeen rose up once again against the government of Najibullah, Dostum allied himself temporarily with the mujahedeen of Ahmad Shah Massoud. This is a dubious decision, since he did take part in the conquest of Kabul, but it may also have been a policy of realpolitik, as Dostum's forces could not have withstood all the armies of the mujahedeen. Also allying with one of te mujahedeen forces could possibly have been a practical implementation of Dostum's wish to keep the islamic extremists at bay. When infighting started after the fall of Kabul, Dostum combatted the armies of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and defended Kabul against him, but in 1994 he allied with him and besieged Kabul once again.
Ultimately this infighting proved to be disastrous as the Taliban quickly rose in power and captured Herat and Kabul. Dostum rallied his army against them and succeeded in keeping the Taliban out of the north of the country. At this time he had an army of ca 50.000 troops, including tanks and aircraft, and received support from various countries such as India, Russia and Iran. He effectively ruled an independent country in northern Afghanistan, with its own currency, airline company and social and political system, including female emancipation, non-obligation of veils, permission of alcohol and religious freedom.
In 1996 he founded what is now known as the Northern Alliance, together with Massoud and the Shia community of Afghanistann controlling 10 of the 29 provinces of Afghanistan. After the defection of his subordinate Abdel Malik to the Taliban, Dostum was forced to flee to Turkey, and although he briefly returned and defeated Abdel Malik, he had to go in exile once again soon afterwards.
Unlike Massoud, who received extensive CIA funding, Dostum returned to Afghanistan in 2001 on his own, and although the CIA did not trust him, the US did "allow" him to rejoin the ranks of the anti-Taliban fighters. After the overthrowing of the Taliban, Dostum assumed the position of Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief in 2003. He defied orders of Afghan president Hamid Karzai by establishing the Northern Zone of Afghanistan, an autonomous region of which he is widely regarded as the leader. After an incident in 2008 in which his rival's Akbar Bai and his son were allegedly beate severely by soldiers of Dostum, he temporarily sought asylum in Turkey, before returning in August 2009, where he was greeted by over 20.000 supporters.
He has made several comments, denouncing the NATO actions in Afghanistan as highly ineffective, and has claimed that he could "mop up the Taliban in 6 months", should he be allowed to raise a significant army. This request has always been refused by the ISAF and NATO. He remains the de facto ruler of Northern Afghanistan, especially of the 2.6 million Uzbek population to this very day.
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