Faryab, Afghanistan Part I

By | October 17, 2021

Since 2005, Norway has had the leadership responsibility for the NATO force in Meymaneh. The force is responsible for security in Faryab province in northwestern Afghanistan. During this period, Norwegian soldiers have been involved in more and more attacks and skirmishes. In 2009 the number was around 100, in 2010 it has probably doubled. The vast majority of the approximately 500 Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan are stationed in Faryab .

  • What are the historical roots of today’s conflicts in Faryab?
  • What are the reasons for the increase in the level of violence in Faryab?
  • What distinguishes the Faryab province, the “Norwegian” NATO squad in Afghanistan?
  • What conditions are the Norwegian soldiers fighting under?

2: Older story

Faryab (see facts) has for 2500 years been located between the regional power centers in Balkh / Mazar-e Sharif in the north and Herat in the southwest. The area has for long periods been part of Persia or Iran. The city of Faryab was founded during the Persian Sassanids (224-651 AD). But the area has also been invaded and held by a number of other ethnic groups – such as Greeks, Scythians, Kushans, Heftalites, Arabs, Turkmens and others. In 1220, Faryab was a highly developed agricultural country with highly advanced irrigation systems. But in 1221, the area was invaded by the Mongols under Genghis Khan .

Within seven years, the whole of northwestern Afghanistan was laid waste. The city of Faryab was burned to the ground and never rebuilt. The population was killed or driven into exile. Military historian Stephen Tanner has called the Mongolian campaign in northwestern Afghanistan the first nuclear bomb in history. Thereafter, the area was gradually populated by Turkish-speaking peoples. The Uzbeks came to the area in the early 16th century.

In the 19th century, Faryab was the largest of four Uzbek khanates (principality) in northwestern Afghanistan. The fairly independent Khanates were the apple of strife in a tug-of-war between Iran in the west, the Pashtun Afghan kingdom in the east and Bokhara in the north.

After many dramatic decades, Faryab was conquered in the 1870s and effectively included in the Kingdom of Afghanistan, a country located in Asia according to thereligionfaqs.com. In 1876, Meymaneh was destroyed and large sections of the population were killed. The king seized much of the best agricultural land and over the next decades he gave this to Pashtuns who were moved to Faryab to secure the conquest. This brutal colonization is still the basis of Uzbek bitterness and many of the traditional conflicts in Faryab.

3: Recent history: changing power relations

The war against the Soviet Union and the Soviet-backed government in Kabul in the 1980s came to Faryab as a civil war , especially between Uzbeks and Pashtuns. From 1988 to 1996, the province was dominated by the Uzbek warlord Rasul Pahlawan. He was allied with General Abdul Rashid Dostum who was the leading warlord in northwestern Afghanistan. But there was still strong tension between Rasul and Dostum.

In 1996, Rasul was killed, and his brother Abdul Malik accused Dostum of the murder. This triggered a violent conflict. Malik allied with the Taliban and drove Dostum into exile. Rasul had been notorious for his cruelty, which particularly affected the Pashtuns of Faryab. But during the Taliban regime (1996-2001 )
, the Pashtuns fought back , and now it was the Uzbeks who got to taste the whip. After the United States, in alliance with Dostum and other warlords, overthrew the Taliban government (in 2001), Uzbek warlords again ravaged Pashtun villages. Thousands were killed and tens of thousands forced to flee.

In the period 2002–2003, a civil war was fought between the militia groups Hizb-e Junbesh -e Melli-ye Afghanistan and Jamiat -i Islami for power in northern Afghanistan. Under Dostum’s leadership, Junbesh secured power in Faryab, Jawzjan and Sari Pul. But Jamiat, in the north led by Mohammed Atta who is now governor of Balkh, secured control of Mazar-e Sharif, which is strategically the most important city in the north. Both Junbesh and Jamiat were initially multi-ethnic organizations, but over time Junbesh has been strongly dominated by Uzbeks and Turkmens, while Jamiat is dominated by Tajiks. The conflict has thus been polarized along ethnic lines .

From 2004, Dostum was so strong in northwestern Afghanistan that he could defy the government openly, and President Karzai feared Dostum’s power. Karzai then used an alliance with Mohammad Atta in Balkh to balance Dostum’s power in the north. In 2007–2008, Dostum himself was challenged by a Turkmen leader who had previously been close to him. After severely abusing him, Dostum was suspended from his post as chief of staff of the Aghan army and exiled to Turkey.

But ahead of the 2009 presidential election, Atta, as the only provincial governor in the country, declared his support for Tajik Abdullah, Karzai’s opponent in the presidential election. This threatened Karzai’s grip on northern Afghanistan. Thus, he entered into an alliance with Dostum, which secured Karzai a large share of the votes in the north. This alliance has in all probability again given Dostum and Junbesh freer rein in Faryab and the neighboring provinces of Jawzjan and
Sari Pul.

Faryab, Afghanistan 1