Political Landscape

The Battle between Law and Force: Scattered political power and deteriorating security test Herat’s dynamism


Darb-e Khosh (Happy Gate), a historical gate to Herat city, being rebuilt as part of the young mayor's campaign for urban development. Photo: Said Reza Kazemi

Darb-e Khosh (Happy Gate), a historical gate to Herat city, being rebuilt as part of the young mayor's campaign for urban development. Photo: Said Reza Kazemi

Herat – the affluent and vibrant city in western Afghanistan – is going through a ‘scattering’ of political power and a deterioration in security. While Ismail Khan, the self-styled ‘amir of the west’, is still the preeminent figure, political power is no longer concentrated only in his hands, and the new actors are behaving differently from the old-timers. One consequence of this is that security has worsened, with several districts seeing heavy clashes between Afghan government forces and the armed opposition – mostly the Taleban – and between rival Taleban factions. In Herat city, insecurity has taken on a largely criminal face as manifested in assassinations, kidnappings and thefts. Reviewing the recent situation, AAN guest author Said Reza Kazemi* argues that the diffusion of political power and deteriorating security pose a crucial test to the vibrancy of Herat and this, in turn, is reflected in the day-to-day life of its people and their striving for the future.

Struggling to keep centre stage: the ‘amir’ of the west’

One still cannot write about Herat without mentioning its self-proclaimed amir, Ismail Khan. He has risen from a captain in the government army (from which he defected in 1979 to join an anti-communist uprising) to mujahedin commander to governor of Herat and self-declared ‘amir’ of what historically was called the southwestern region (1992 to 1994 and again, 2002 to 2004) to the Minister of Energy and Water to a vice-presidential candidate in the hugely disputed 2014 presidential elections.

A prominent member of the influential Jamiat-e Islami party and of the political opposition group Shura-ye Herasat wa Sobat-e Afghanistan (Council for Protection and Stability of Afghanistan or CPSA) (see AAN reporting here), Ismail Khan currently has no government position. He does not appear on the media much, either. However, there are two specific days in the year when he can always be seen talking to the people around him and to the media: 24 Hut (15 March), the anniversary of Herat’s uprising against the Soviet-backed, Afghan communist government in 1357 (1979) (see AAN reporting here) and 29 Hamal (18 April), the anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and victory of the mujahedin in Herat in 1371 (1992). (1) The reason why Ismail Khan gives special attention to marking these two events is that he believes he played the instrumental role in both. At other times, he gathers his mujahedin commanders, local elders, government officials, journalists and others in his mansion in a street named after himself in downtown Herat to talk about the situation of Afghanistan generally and Herat specifically.

This year, on the two anniversaries (Herat uprising and Soviet withdrawal), as well as at least twice in public meetings at his home (see here and here), Ismail Khan made some very strong points. He repeatedly described insecurity as spreading “to the gates of our city” from nearby provinces like Farah and said that he and his mujahedin would not wait for the Afghan government’s permission to defend Herat if the government hesitated to do so. He vowed to take action to prevent Herat from becoming “another Kunduz” – an explicit reference to the fear that a generally safe province such as Herat could also fall, at least temporarily, to the armed opposition, as Kunduz has done twice (AAN on its fall in 2015 and near fall in 2016 here and here).

Ismail Khan’s rhetoric should be read in terms of messages for opponents, supporters and the general public. An experienced local journalist told this author that 70-year-old Ismail Khan is using worsening security as a pretext for arguing for the need for his Shura-ye Mujahedin (Mujahedin Council). It brings together many of his former Jamiat-e Islami allies from western Afghanistan and, through it, Ismail Khan keeps his central position in Afghanistan’s changing political landscape (more on his mujahedin council project in this previous AAN dispatch). There are at least two changes in the country’s political scene that Ismail Khan is reacting to: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami party’s reconciliation with the Afghan government – its pictures and statements have been on billboards as well as on some car windows in parts of the city – and future parliamentary elections (whenever they happen – for more, see previous AAN dispatch on elections here). A high-ranking government official who is close to both Ismail Khan in Herat and his allies in Kabul told this author:

Ismail Khan and his allies are preparing themselves for the coming parliamentary elections. They see Hekmatyar as a potential rival. They want to have a strong presence in the future parliament, and this will allow them to put pressure on the leadership and ministers of the National Unity Government.

Ismail Khan has so far managed to maintain his Mujahedin Council, not because everybody agrees with him and his agenda, but because he has been able to gratify them, particularly economically. He has accumulated abundant wealth and spent part of it on satisfying and keeping his former mujahedin commanders and members on side. For instance, local sources told this author that he reportedly earns a monthly income of around 19 million AFN (approximately USD 292,000) from leasing out three markets in the centre of Herat city alone. Additionally, he has intervened in other economic sectors from hospitality to partnerships with major business people since 2001. (2) One example is the swish, multi-storey Esteqlal Hotel in downtown Herat that is owned by him and where foreign guests, visiting government officials and those close to the ‘amir’ stay.

Ismail Khan’s continued political and economic influence in Herat would certainly help him sustain and even enhance his standing in Afghanistan’s national political sphere, particularly via the Council for Protection and Stability of Afghanistan, where he heads the defence and security committee. Nevertheless, many in Herat agree that the nature of his influence has changed. “Ismail Khan is no longer the only determining man in town,” said the journalist quoted above, “because others have risen and are vying for power.” This has been possible, broadly speaking, because of Herat’s socioeconomic dynamics, including the entry of more educated younger people into politics and the rise of new economic-political actors. In Herat, we now see a diffusion of political power, what in this dispatch is referred to as ‘scattered politics’.

The shadow of the past governors

After Ismail Khan was moved to Kabul to become the Minister of Energy and Water in 2004 in a bid by then President Hamid Karzai to impose central government authority on the disobedient Herati ‘amir’, Sayyed Muhammad Khairkhwa became the first in an unusually long line of successors. Khairkhwa had worked with Ismail Khan in the resistance before 1992 – something that it was assumed would help reduce the likelihood of Ismail Khan acting as a spoiler against him. (3) Khairkhwa – a Herati transitional solution, at least from Karzai’s perspective – did not last long and was replaced by Sayyed Hussain Anwari the following year. A non-Herati from Parwan province and a Shia Hazara, Anwari met with opposition from the local Herati Sunni elite and population. However, he managed to stay in his position until 2009, during which, some people say, he advanced the interests of the Shia Hazara community, including his support for the development of the populous Mahalla Baba Haji and Jebrail settlements which house thousands of people, mostly Shia Hazaras and Sayyeds, in Herat city. (Anwari died of cancer in July 2016) Like other provinces across Afghanistan, Herat’s security was deteriorating by 2009. One reason was that Ismail Khan, angry about being removed from his home area and not mollified by his promotion to the cabinet, used local allies such as Commander Ghulam Yahya Akbari Siawushani to undermine security in Herat province. (4)

Anwari was replaced by Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, another non-Herati and a technocrat who had been Minister of Irrigation and Environment (2002-04) and Deputy Defence Minister (2005-08) under Karzai. (He had been a supporter of the former king, but later became close to Karzai.) Nuristani did not endure long, because of, among other reasons, his lack of understanding of and involvement in Herat’s local social and political dynamics.

Nuristani’s 2010 replacement, Daud Shah Saba, was different. A Herati with dual Afghan-Canadian citizenship, a geologist by profession (and later Minister of Mines and Petroleum, 2015-16), Saba’s attempts at reform threatened the interests of the established elite, particularly those around Ismail Khan, such as former mayor and Ismail Khan protégé Muhammad Salim Taraki. Saba was forced to resign in June 2013 (more on his resignation in this AAN dispatch). His successor, Fazlullah Wahidi, a non-Herati from Kunar province, did not last long either, as he was, along with many other local government officials, summarily dismissed by President Ghani in a surprise visit to Herat in December 2014.

The repeated changing of Herat governors, writes Jolyon Leslie, an architect and researcher who has been working in Afghanistan since 1989 (p. 22), shows:

… how narrow a path [Herat’s] governors need to tread – and how little support they might expect from Kabul in the end, for their reform or any other efforts.

This past experience weighs heavily on the incumbent governor, Muhammad Asef Rahimi, another non-Herati, this time from Kabul, who has studied public administration and development in the United States and is a former minister of agriculture. He is Herat’s sixth governor since 2004. Officially, the governor is at the apex of power in his (or her) province. In practice, this is often not true, and is certainly not in present-day Herat. Several local journalists and many ordinary people speak of Rahimi as a symbolic and ceremonial official with little influence. They also describe him with phrases like ‘overly conservative’ or ‘extremely cautious.’ He is mostly seen meeting foreigners and various groups of local government officials and people in his office, speaking at events and opening exhibitions. Like other non-Herati governors, Rahimi is not heavily involved in Herat’s political and economic dynamics. Speaking on Tolo TV on 1 November 2016, Rahimi himself even referred publicly to his lack of power in Herat. (5)

Acting in this rather constrained way has helped him do one main thing: maintain his office, albeit without being able to deliver much. Additionally, as a governor on generally good terms with the two NUG leaders, as well as with Ismail Khan, Rahimi represents a weak administration that is more involved in its own internal politicking than public service delivery. (6)

The new generation: political power diffused

The towering shadow of Ismail Khan has diminished since the early years after 2001, not only because of his years of absence from the province, but also because of Herat’s larger societal dynamics. Herat’s political scene has, therefore, seen several new actors emerging. One is the current mayor, Farhad Niayesh, a Herati with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Herat and a master’s degree in water resources management from India. Aged 31 and not belonging to any political faction, he is the youngest mayor Herat has ever seen and is generally viewed by locals as hardworking. Many Heratis know him as a mayor whose civil service appointment test was taken and approved by President Ghani himself. This is seen as an important change in Herat politics because the highest municipal position has traditionally been a prerogative of Ismail Khan. The post is also economically significant: Herat Municipality collects over one billion AFN in revenue on an annual basis.

Niayesh has been actively working to change the face of Herat city. As part of a new urban master plan, the main road in central Herat is being widened (only Iran’s consulate still stands in the way as they have so far refused to move) and the city’s squares are being rebuilt (see, for example, here). Niayesh has also been working to connect Herat internationally. New railway lines are being constructed to link it to neighbouring Iran and Turkmenistan (see here and here). He also recently signed a ‘sister city’ agreement between Herat and Council Bluffs, a city in the US state of Iowa, in July 2016. This was a joint effort by military veterans from Iowa who had served in Afghanistan and Herati leaders to sustain and enhance bilateral understanding and relationships.

However, the young mayor has also run into hurdles. The widening of the main road, for example, has pitted him against the provincial council. Niayesh has accused the council of seeking USD 50,000 in kickbacks from contracts related to the project, an allegation the council has rejected as baseless. No investigation has so far been conducted into the accusation. The road project and the development of informal settlements in and around Herat city have again also revealed the extent and depth of land grabbing in Herat. This is a threat to the young mayor’s push for development, because it is extremely difficult to settle land and property disputes in a fair manner.

The mayor is also reportedly having a difficult relationship with Governor Rahimi. Local sources told this author the mayor tends to work in an independent manner, partly because he believes he enjoys the support of the president. This is putting him in conflict, not only with the governor who expects more consultation, but also with influential members of the provincial council. The pressure of other actors may force the mayor to proceed more carefully in order not to further threaten the interests of the local elite such as Ismail Khan and those around him.

The second recently emerging actor is the head of the provincial council, Haji Kamran Alizai. In contrast to the self-styled amir, the ‘ceremonial’ governor and the independent mayor – with all of whom he has a tense relationship –, Alizai belongs to what a writer in the Afghan daily newspaper, Hasht-e Sobh, has termed “a different generation of emerging local powerbrokers.” (7) A Pashtun from Kohsan district of Herat province and perceived as close to former President Karzai and recently to First Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum, Alizai means different things to different people. For his supporters, he is a determined and assiduous man who does what he says. For his opponents, he is a ranting, domineering bully who takes the law into his own hands.

He does not refrain from showing off the wealth he has accumulated, in his own words, from “oil imports from Iraq, Iran and Turkmenistan.” (8) Alizai is reportedly closer than most Herati figures of influence to the Iranian government through that country’s consulate in Herat. He frequently travels to Iran and has assumed an Iranian Farsi accent.

In an incident in May 2016 in downtown Herat, Alizai’s bodyguards shot and severely wounded a provincial National Directorate of Security (NDS) officer who had wanted to search the vehicles in Alizai’s convoy for illicit drugs. (10) It is because of events like this that some, including Hasht-e Sobh, have alleged that a major part of his wealth comes from large-scale smuggling of narcotics from western Afghanistan to Iran and Turkmenistan. (9) In another blatant case, Alizai along with his armed men stormed the Herat Appellate Attorney’s Office (the part of the Attorney General’s Office that deals with appeals) and freed a man accused of embezzlement. (11) This happened at the same time as, in Kabul, the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Centre was being opened by new Attorney General Muhammad Farid Hamidi and just before the Brussels conference on aid to Afghanistan when accountability would be one of the major themes (see previous AAN dispatch on Brussels Conference on Afghanistan here).

Until this point, the Afghan government had been either unwilling or unable (or both) to hold Alizai accountable for allegedly breaking the law, but Attorney General Hamidi did try. The confrontation between him and Alizai became what Herati parliamentarian, Ahmad Farhad Majidi, called “the battle between law and force in Herat.” (12) On 18 August 2016, the Attorney General issued an order suspending Alizai as head of Herat’s provincial council, banning him from leaving the country and asking the local government to arrest him. Nothing was actually done, though. This failure, among other things, increased the tension between Alizai and Governor Rahimi whose spokesman Jailani Farhad initially announced that the local administration would implement the Attorney General’s order. Back to Herat from a short visit to Kabul where he was seeking political support, Alizai was welcomed by a cheering crowd of supporters on 27 August 2016. He held a press conference soon afterwards in which he emphasised he did not apologise for his actions and blasted the local government, particularly Governor Rahimi, as “incompetent.” (13)

One of the people Alizai contacted and won backing from in Kabul was First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum. Billboards showing pictures of Alizai and Dostum were put up in various parts of the city after Alizai’s return to Herat. Even President Ghani has not intervened to remove Alizai after earlier complaints against Alizai’s alleged violations of laws. “The president told us that the people of Herat have elected Haji Kamran [Alizai] as provincial council head, so he couldn’t do anything about it,” said a civil society activist who had attended a meeting with Ghani when he visited Herat to inaugurate the Salma hydropower dam in June 2016.

As expected, Alizai stayed in his post as head of Herat provincial council for a third consecutive term. He reportedly stayed chairman “through the force of money”. The journalist quoted earlier told AAN that Alizai had offered up to USD 200,000 to each provincial council member who voted for him.

Deteriorating security around and in Herat city

In Herat, the elite is divergent and political power scattered among many actors. Additionally, the administration in Herat province and districts is generally dysfunctional. Many officials, including heads of provincial departments, district administrators and district police chiefs, who were summarily dismissed by President Ghani in December 2014, have still not been replaced by fully mandated authorities. These key provincial and district positions continue to be occupied by acting officials whose authority is only weakly recognised. One result of all this is that security has deteriorated across Herat province. Several districts have seen violent clashes not only between the Afghan government and the armed opposition – mostly the Taleban – but also between rival Taleban factions. Government forces’ patrols and checkpoints on the gates and outskirts of Herat are needed to guard the city against insecurity spreading from nearby districts such as Karokh to the northeast and Gozara to the south. In the words of one well-placed local journalist who covers security:

The Taleban are increasingly operating in most districts of Herat. They have their governor for Herat province and their administrators for Herat districts. The government is a physical structure as seen by its offices of governor and district administrators as well as by its security forces. The Taleban operate differently: they want to affect the minds of the people.

In July 2016, the security committee of Herat provincial council raised its concerns over insurgent groups having taken control of numerous areas in a number of districts, pointing to Shindand, Adraskan, Golran, Koshk-e Kohna and Farsi as particularly threatened. The committee members said that Taleban ruled most of the villages in those districts.

The most restive is Shindand, the most southern and strategic district that hosts one of Afghanistan’s largest airbases (and still some US military presence). As AAN reported in April 2016, the district witnessed violent clashes between two rival Taleban groups, from the Mansur/Haibatullah mainstream and the dissident faction loyal to Mullah Rasul. In response, government forces have, on several occasions, intervened in the Shindand conflict to quell the insurgency. The intra-Taleban clashes in Shindand are ongoing and have caused heavy casualties. There has also been government/Taleban fighting, including an attack on Afghan commando forces in October 2016; the number of casualties remains unknown. (14) To make the situation more manageable in this volatile part of Herat province, the Afghan government plans to divide Shindand into several smaller districts. Whether this will contribute to security and governance is doubtful, however.

Other districts have also been getting increasingly unsafe. Like Shindand, there has been Taleban infighting in the district of Pashtun Zarghun to the immediate southeast of Herat city. Further in the east, in Chesht-e Sharif district, where the strategic Salma hydro-electric dam is located, the local Taleban have repeatedly abducted people who work for the Afghan government and also claimed an attack on foreign tourists (see here and here). (15) In the west, in the districts of Kohsan and Golran that border Iran, increasingly active local Taleban has spurred the Afghan government to carry out “mopping-up operations” there (see here and here). The district of Koshk-e Kohna in the north has also witnessed increased Taleban activity. The nearby southern district of Gozara, the centre of which is only around 15 kilometres away from central Herat city, is home to increased criminal activity by armed kidnappers and thieves.

Herat security officials have vowed to improve security in their province. The late commander of the Herat-based, Afghan National Army’s 207th Zafar Corps, General Mohiuddin Ghori, who died in a helicopter crash on 29 November 2016, had vowed to turn Afghanistan’s western region into “the graveyard of the Taleban” and had effectively taken an increasingly offensive posture against the insurgents. General Ghori had replaced General Taj Mohammad Jahed after Jahed was appointed Interior Minister in May 2016. It is not known yet who will replace General Ghori or how his death will affect Afghan security forces in the western region. There has also been a new police chief, General Muhammad Ayub Ansari, who succeeded General Abdul Majid Rozi following the latter’s retirement as per a presidential decree in July 2016. Rozi had been under increased public pressure due to worsening security.

Inside Herat city, insecurity is largely criminal and armed. (16) According to media reports, Herat is becoming notorious as “a city of assassinations, kidnappings and thefts.” (17) In a recent high-profile incident, on 28 April 2016, Samiuddin Rahin, the provincial attorney, was killed in his car by unknown armed motorcyclists in broad daylight in downtown Herat. It is not clear whether this killing was carried out by insurgents or criminals (or both).

This author has also come across at least two local people whose relatives have been kidnapped and, in one case, killed even after they paid a heavy ransom. In May 2016, the provincial NDS arrested what it called “16 professional kidnappers who had, in eight months, abducted ten people, hidden them in eight hideouts across the city, demanded ransom from their families and killed three of them”. As for thefts, both petty and grand, they have become commonplace. Local people are concerned about thefts of their cars, motorcycles and mobile phones. Member of Herat provincial council Habib ul-Rahman Pedram has said there are “at least ten cases of car thefts in Herat city per day.” (18) In late October 2016, armed men wearing police uniform broke into two jewellery stores and stole two kilogrammes of gold in broad daylight in central Herat. A few police officials were sacked in the wake of this robbery.

It seems there are various motives behind rising crime inside Herat and its environs. Several local elders told this author that many assassinations are, in fact, contract killings, paid for by local figures of influence to settle scores among them. Additionally, there are reports that locals whose fortunes have worsened in the wake of the international military drawdown are resorting to abductions and thefts as a quick way to make lots of money. Many believe the criminals operate in collusion with a corrupt police force.

Testing Herat’s dynamism: the experiences of local Heratis

Although political power in Herat has become more diffuse and security has deteriorated as a result, it does not mean that the current order in Herat – at least in the city – will fall apart. Rhetoric by local figures of influence such as Ismail Khan that Herat might fall to the armed opposition as Kunduz did is at best premature. This is because the insurgents – mainly the Taleban – and the criminals are as yet far from being able to counteract government forces. Equally importantly, Herat – again, the city at least – is economically, socially and culturally vibrant and this sustains and motivates the local population to keep up their every-day lives.

The dynamism of Herat is reflected in the day-to-day life of its people. This author has followed three Heratis** with different backgrounds and socioeconomic conditions for around a year. They give an indication of how non-elite Heratis are reacting to security and political developments and are thinking of and striving for the future.

Qader is a medical doctor in Herat Regional Hospital, the hospital that usually receives those killed and injured in security and criminal incidents in the city and surrounding areas. He also works in a number of crowded private clinics and hospitals in Herat city. Undeterred by the generally disappointing news of Herat and Afghanistan, which he follows on a daily basis, Qader is building a future for himself and his family by recently buying a plot of land in the centre of the city. On this land, he has almost finished constructing a house. The land and the house are currently worth around USD 100,000. However, Qader carries a pistol and closely follows his two children between home and school, as do almost all well-off fathers across the city.

The second Herati, Mama Farid, is a former mujahed and patriarch of a family in downtown Herat. He has discouraged his children from migrating abroad. Instead they continue their higher education in the bustling University of Herat, which has around fourteen thousand students, and work in the private sector, including in a money exchange in the major Khorasan Market in the city centre.

The third Herati, Rauf, a returnee from Iran, is a plasterer who has worked on the construction of the houses of both rich and poor people in and around Herat city. He believes in the future of Herat and, more broadly, of Afghanistan, that it will not return to ‘the bad old days’, because, in his words, “there has been so much change in terms of construction and development that makes it difficult for the past to be repeated.”

The lively city of Herat also hosts, on a weekly basis, events related to topics ranging from security to economics to culture and science. Recent examples include a film festival, an exhibition on tourism and souvenirs, the fifth Herat Security Dialogue, held in the ancient, renovated Herat Citadel and the five-star Arg Hotel, an exhibition of rural market products bringing village-based producers together from across the province, a biennial graphics exhibition in the University of Herat, the tenth exhibition of Afghan and Iranian industrial products, an exhibition of forty thousand books and events on mental health and psychotherapy (19), to give just a short list. (20) Of special note are, compared to Herat’s past as well as to other provinces across Afghanistan, the greater numbers of girls and women who are contributing to almost all spheres of Herat’s public life from education to the economy at large.

It is this dynamism that keeps large parts of the population engaged in day-to-day life and away from the insurgents and the criminals. The way that political power has become scattered among many actors and the worsening of security pose a crucial test to this liveliness, but it is premature to say which will overcome which. The current order, in which fragmenting politics and security go on at the same time as the dynamic life of a province and city, will stay, at least as long as Herat has not lost the vibrancy that has made it what it is: a bustling place in the midst of an ongoing battle between law and force.

 

* Said Reza Kazemi is an independent researcher. He has previously worked as a researcher for the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN).

** Names have been changed in order to protect the confidentiality of the local people under study.

 

 

(1) For a concise history of Herat, see this recent work: CPW Gammell, The Pearl of Khorasan: A History of Herat, London: Hurst, 2016.

(2) Antonio Giustozzi wrote in his 2005 paper “Warlords into businessmen: the Afghan transition 2002-2005” that initially “according to available information, Ismail Khan (…) was making so much money out of Islam Qala’s [border crossing] customs that he might not have felt the need to actually get directly involved in business activities. The customs revenue of Herat has been variously estimated at $100-300 million a year.”

Also on Ismail Khan’s interventions in the economy, see Jolyon Leslie, “Political and Economic Dynamics of Herat,” Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace (USIP), 2015, especially pages 15-16 and 22-25.

(3) Jolyon Leslie, “Political and Economic Dynamics of Herat,” Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace (USIP), 2015, 22.

(4) Commander Ghulam Yahya Akbari Siawushani, from Siawushan village in Gozara district, was a former Herat mayor under Ismail Khan’s governorship. He was killed along with 24 of his armed men in a military operation by Afghan government and ISAF forces in October 2009. In 2009, he had told a reporter, “I agree with a lot of what the Taleban do, and I have even helped them out financially. I am in contact with one group of Taleban, but I am operating an independent front.” See Thomas Ruttig, “The Other Side: Dimensions of the Afghan Insurgency: Causes, Actors and Approaches to ‘Talks,’” Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), Thematic Report 01/2009, July 2009, 11.

(5) AAN media monitoring: Tolo TV, 1 November 2016.

(6) Centre-periphery relations are tense in Afghanistan. The central government has used political appointments to compete with established provincial elite, not for institution-building as claimed, but for its own favourite patrimonialism. See Antonio Giustozzi and Dominique Orsini, “Centre-Periphery Relations in Afghanistan: Badakhshan between Patrimonialism and Institution-Building,” Central Asian Survey, 28:1, 2009, 1-16.

(7) Hasht-e Sobh, 7 Sonbola 1395 / 28 August 2016, 4.

(8) Hasht-e Sobh, 31 Asad 1395 / 21 August 2016, 3.

(9) Hasht-e Sobh, 7 Sonbola 1395 / 28 August 2016, 4.

(10) Hasht-e Sobh, 7 Sonbola 1395 / 28 August 2016, 4.

(11) Hasht-e Sobh, 3 Sonbola 1395 / 24 August 2016, 7.

(12) Hasht-e Sobh, 30 Asad 1395 / 20 August 2016, 7.

(13) Hasht-e Sobh, 7 Sonbola 1395 / 28 August 2016, 4.

(14) Afghan Islamic Press, 20 October 2016.

(15) This author’s interview with a relative of a government employee who has been abducted in Chesht-e Sharif, Herat city, October 2016.

(16) However, there was a high-profile security incident in May 2016 in which three rockets were fired from a secharkh [the three-wheeled Herati rickshaw] on the building of Herat governor’s office, killing a civilian man, injuring seven other people and destroying parts of the building. It is not clear whether this was an act carried out by the insurgency.

(17) Somayya Walizada, “Edama-ye Kabus-e Qatl wa Terur dar Herat [Continuation of the Nightmare of Killing and Assassination in Herat],” Killid Magazine, Issue 720, 14 May 2016, 24; Sune Engel Rasmussen, “Afghanistan’s model city is also its kidnapping capital,” The Week, 6 August 2015.

(18) Hasht-e Sobh, 31 Jawza 1395 / 20 June 2016, 5.

(19) The events on mental health and psychotherapy were attended by scores of people, including this author, in Herat city.

(20) In one spectacular recent event, Herati women held their fourth international film festival in the capital city of Kabul in late October 2016. This film festival is attracting participants from across the world and is becoming globally renowned (all about this film festival here.)

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Thematic Category: Political Landscape