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Letter to the Editor- Washignton Times--Don’t Fault Aghan Gen. Dostum

Nov 26, 2009

Washington, Nov 26, 2009 - The Associated Press story "Warlords are back in power" (World, Nov. 19), regarding the resurgence of the Afghan warlords, repeated a half-truth that has become a big lie. I am referring to the often-repeated story that Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum intentionally suffocated a large number of captured Taliban prisoners during the chaos that reigned as the Taliban were pushed out of Afghanistan.

The article tells only half the story, thus creating a false impression. Gen. Dostum is one of the unsung heroes in our fight against the Taliban after Sept. 11, 2001. Gen. Dostum was on the ground, leading the offensive against the Taliban at a time when we had just 200 troops in Afghanistan. They were support troops, not combat troops.

There is a time-honored Afghan custom that anyone who surrenders will be treated fairly by their captors, which is based on a commitment by those who surrender never to try to overpower those to whom they have surrendered. This tradition has been in Afghanistan for hundreds of years to ensure that combatants who surrender are not immediately killed for a lack of resources necessary to detain them.

In this case, the Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners in question led a bloody uprising. This uprising resulted in the deaths of dozens of Gen. Dostum's Northern Alliance tribesmen as well as an American CIA agent. Before this uprising, the captured men were treated with respect under the Afghan tradition, and Gen. Dostum had no intention of harming those prisoners of war.

Responsibility for any suffering that took place after the surrender lies not in the hands of Gen. Dostum but in the hands of those hostile prisoners who mounted the uprising. To blame Gen. Dostum for their deaths, which has been done many times, is to do the bidding of the Taliban and ignore the efforts of a man who took such great measures to side with the United States at a crucial moment. He had no choice but to transport those prisoners via container to a more secure area. To blame him for that decision is wrong.


U.S. House of Representatives