While former Herat strongman Ismail Khan, now in his 70s, is planning to regroup to fight the Taliban, dozens of fighters have pledged loyalty to former vice-president Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum in the northern provinces against the Taliban, ET has gathered. Dostum was part of erstwhile Northern Alliance backed by India-Iran-Russia and visited New Delhi last year when the government hosted a plethora of Afghan leaders.
Atta Mohamamed Noor, also formerly with the Northern Alliance, has also vowed to fight back. Between 1996 and 2001, the Northern Alliance blocked the Taliban and al-Qaeda from taking over the whole country. Many internally displaced persons found shelter in areas controlled by Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was killed ahead of 9/11. Besides India, Iran and Russia, the Northern Alliance had the backing of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Following 9/11, the Northern Alliance made advances with support from US air power.
ET has learnt that thousands of Afghans have taken up arms in recent weeks in Northern Afghanistan — dominated by Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazara communities — to fight the Taliban, following advances by the extremist group in many provinces. These Afghan nationals are demanding additional defence equipment from Kabul to fight the Taliban.
The Afghan government has sought air support from India, Russia and the US to fight Taliban as air power has worked effectively against the group. Kabul is particularly interested in acquiring Russian air platforms as many Afghan fighter pilots have been trained in the Soviet Union and Russia in the past and Afghan forces are familiar with Russian weapons. Fighting has raged across several provinces, but Taliban has primarily focused on a devastating campaign across the northern countryside, seizing dozens of districts in the past two months.
Afghan first vice president Amrullah Saleh has, meanwhile, said on Monday that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ respect among the people has not dwindled despite the evidence of some gaps in recent weeks. In a Facebook post on Monday, he said that Afghans should be proud of the security forces, saying “their sacrifice is our dignity”. Saleh said that the Taliban was fighting for mixed interests and that the rule of the group in Afghanistan is not possible, even if they gain more territory.