In a remarkable act of insubordination, a powerful security chief in southern Afghanistan says the central government in Kabul cannot remove him from his post.
Speaking to journalists on January 3, General Abdul Raziq, police chief in southern Kandahar Province, says he is serving because of local support.
“I was not appointed by this government, and it cannot fire me,” he said. “I am serving because the people of Kandahar want me to serve, and I will only leave this post if they tell me to do so.”
His refusal comes amid a tense standoff between the national unity government in Kabul and Atta Mohammed Noor. The Tajik leader of the Jamiat-e Islami political party, Noor has served as the governor of northern Balkh Province for more than 15 years.
Two weeks after the government claimed to have approved his resignation on December 18, Noor is still reluctant to leave his post.
After receiving a government directive telling security officials to resist participating in politics, Raziq is now defiant.
“We are watching what this government is doing, and they are often not in the service of our homeland,” the Pashtun commander said.
Over the past 16 years, Raziq rose from obscurity to one of the most powerful figures in southern Afghanistan. His military career began as a border force commander in Kandahar small town Spin Boldak. But his apparent success and zeal in countering the Taliban turned him into a key figure in the region where the Taliban emerged in the 1990s and which served as their de-facto capital.
Raziq, believed to be in his 40s, is often accused of using heavy-handed tactics and committing grave right abuses in fighting against Taliban insurgents.
While being credited with establishing government control and relative peace in Kandahar, Noor has faced criticism from locals and rights watchdogs.
Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Mohammad Sadiq Rashtinai reported this story from Kandahar, Afghanistan.