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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 July, 2003, 07:34 GMT 08:34 UK
Afghan militias 'should disband'
By Jannat Jalil
BBC correspondent in Kabul

Afghan pro-Dostum militia
Dostum says he will dismantle his own faction
A powerful Afghan leader has called for Afghanistan's pro-government militias to be dismantled in order to help international efforts to create a national Afghan army.

General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a deputy defence minister, has his own private army which controls a large swathe of northern Afghanistan.

But he says that if his detailed proposals are accepted by the government, then his forces will be among the first to be dismantled.

He says he has spoken out because the militias' loyalty to different ethnic groups and factions - rather than to the national values of Afghanistan - is hampering work on a genuine national army.

General Dostum has called for the disarmament of Afghanistan's many armed factions before, but this is the first time he has outlined how he thinks it could be done in such detail.


He says militias should be moved away from urban areas and that the number of fighters should be reduced in stages.

Those who lose their jobs should be given money and should be first in line for any new jobs that come up in reconstruction projects.

General Abdul Rashid Dostum

So far, there are only about 4,000 soldiers in the Afghan national army - being trained by the US, Britain and France - whereas there are thought to be 100,000 fighters in the militias.

General Dostum's own forces have been involved in repeated clashes with rival militias in the north in which dozens of people have been killed.

He acknowledges that this factional fighting is hampering reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

A United Nations-sponsored programme to disarm Afghanistan's militias is supposed to be getting underway, but so far there has been little sign that other warlords, who rely on their fighters for their income and power, share General Dostum's sentiments.

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