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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 09:21 GMT
Dostum gets Afghan military role
By Andrew North
BBC News, Kabul

General Dostum campaigning in elections last year
Dostum - his critics want him to be put on trial
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has given a new job to a controversial militia commander accused of involvement in a series of alleged human rights abuses.

A presidential spokesman said Abdul Rashid Dostum is being appointed to the position of chief-of-staff to the commander of the armed forces.

It is being seen as a move to win Gen Dostum's support ahead of parliamentary elections due later this year.

It is not clear how much power this position will give Gen Dostum.

'Should stand trial'

There are few people more controversial here.


In the 1980s Gen Dostum backed the invading forces of the Soviet Union against the Mujahideen rebels.

He then played a prominent role in the civil war of the 1990s that destroyed much of the capital Kabul, and left thousands dead.

In 2001, while helping the United States, his militia troops were accused of suffocating hundreds of Taleban prisoners to death by locking them inside shipping containers.

For these alleged crimes many Afghans and human rights groups say Gen Dostum should be put on trial.

However, President Karzai's spokesman dismissed the idea when briefing journalists about the impending appointment.

That the Afghan leader seems prepared to overlook such concerns is because of Gen Dostum's still considerable influence.

He stood in last year's presidential elections and came fourth with 10% of the votes, most of them from his fellow Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan.

When parliamentary elections happen sometime later this year, President Karzai would prefer those votes to go to his side.

But many will see this decision as more evidence of the Afghan leader's tendency to co-opt militia leaders rather than confront them

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