KABUL: An Afghan cabinet minister and one-time warlord called on Monday on former anti-Soviet guerrillas to regroup and rearm to prevent a slide into civil war once most foreign forces leave the country by the end of 2014.
Ismail Khan, the energy and water minister and an influential former mujahideen commander, reiterated during a parliamentary session a call to arms that incensed Afghan officials and led some lawmakers to try to impeach him on Monday. But Khan emerged unscathed with the support of 140 of 172 members present, dealing a blow to efforts by President Hamid Karzai to assuage public fears about the effectiveness of Afghanistan’s security forces after their foreign backers leave.
Brought into Karzai’s government as a symbol of national unity, Khan was chided last month for urging people in his power base of the western Herat province to “step forward, take arms and defend the country” in areas where police and troops were unable to operate.
Khan insisted he was committed to Afghanistan’s stable future, having played a role in the creation of the current political structure.
“I’m not making my speech here as a minister but as a person who has fought for more than 21 years for the independence of Afghanistan,” he said during a 90-minute rebuttal, televised live on state television.
“I call from this tribune to all mujahideen not only in Herat, but all mujahideen in Afghanistan, the saviour soldiers of this country — don’t let it go back to insecurity.”
The government is concerned “irresponsible armed groups” could heed Khan’s request and undermine efforts to win public confidence in the 350,000 foreign-trained Afghan security forces.
The regrouping of militias could also further destabilise the country by renewing tribal and ethnic conflicts and turf wars over wealth, resources and power.
Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a lawmaker for Kandahar province, accused Khan during the debate of distributing weapons and trying to consolidate his political power in Herat.
“Do you think that this is the time to have a parallel security structure, against our strong national security forces?” he asked him.