Afghanistan’s Warlords Prepare Their Comeback

The regional capos who broke Afghanistan once before are angling to contest control of the country with the current Taliban rulers.

Exiled warlords, power brokers, and ethnic leaders who fled Afghanistan last year ahead of the Taliban’s victory are threatening civil war unless the Islamists start negotiating to let them return home and reclaim their power and authority as an alternative to the nihilistic rule of the terrorists currently in charge.

The band that broke Afghanistan in the early 1990s and hobbled it for years after is, in other words, getting back together. Unlike their first time around in power—right after the Soviet pullout in 1989—this time the warlords might even seem appealing, so awful is the Taliban regime that took over in August of last year.

The back-to-the-future moment for the old guard came in May when 40 of the like-minded converged in the Turkish capital, Ankara, to meet with Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum and his hangers-on. Dostum, like some of his fellow warlords, used the wealth accumulated during the 20 years of the U.S.-backed Afghan republic to build his own patronage network, the coin of the realm in Afghanistan’s political landscape. At the time, Dostum and men like him supported the reconstruction effort funded by the United States and allies and encouraged education for women, including the dispatch of thousands of Afghan students abroad to study.