Thursday, January 13, 2022

Intelligence Information Report: Uzbek Taliban Units Revolt in Faryab Province, Afghanistan

Uzbek Taliban units have revolted, forcibly disarmed local Pashtun Taliban units, and reportedly seized control of Maimana, the provincial capital of Faryab Province.[1] Local Taliban leadership, including the governor and police chief, have reportedly fled the city.[2] Locals reported shots were fired during preceding protests, but it is unknown if there were any casualties.[3] This takeover was preceded by reports of armed clashes between Taliban units in Faryab Province. The revolt is reportedly in response to Taliban Deputy Defense Minister Mullah Fazel Mazloom arresting the senior-most Uzbek Taliban commander, Makhdoom Alem, in Mazar-i-Sharif on January 12, 2022.[4] One of Makhdoom Alem’s aides, Turkoglu, reportedly threatened the Taliban government, saying his forces will “permanently lower the Taliban flag in Faryab Province” if Makhdoom Alem is not released.[5] The Taliban governors of Faryab, Jowzjan, Sar-e-Pul, and Samangan provinces, as well as the commander of the Taliban 209th Corps, Attaullah Omari, are reported to have gone to Balkh Province to negotiate for the release of Makhdoom Alem.[6]

A Taliban deputy spokesperson, Bilal Karimi, acknowledged that protests took place after the arrest of an individual by the intelligence services, but said the situation was under control.[7]

Makhdoom Alem was the head of the Taliban Military Commission for Faryab Province and commanded Taliban forces in Faryab, Jowzjan, and Sar-e-Pul provinces.[8] Makhdoom Alem was briefly deputy governor of Sar-e-Pul Province after the fall of the Afghan government in August 2021.[9]

This revolt comes after prior clashes between Uzbek Taliban units commanded by Makhdoom Alem and other Taliban units in early December 2021.

Other anti-Taliban opposition forces are expressing support for the revolt.

  • Uzbek warlord Abdul Malik Pahlawan released a statement warning Uzbeks, Turkmens, and Tajiks that they would soon be arrested, like Makhdoom Alem, unless they came together and entered into talks with the Taliban and formed a decentralized government.
  • Ahmad Wali Massoud, the uncle of Ahmad Massoud, leader of the National Resistance Front, released a statement praising “our brave Uzbek compatriots” for rising up against the Taliban.
  • Abdul Latif Pedram, a Tajik politician and former member of Afghanistan’s Wolesi Jirga, called upon Tajik and Uzbek Taliban members to rise up against Pashtun Taliban dominance.
  • These three leaders are most likely located outside of Afghanistan, and in the case of Ahmad Wali Massoud, he may be located in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. 

Longstanding ethnic grievances may be exacerbating this internal Taliban conflict. Mullah Fazl Mazloom reportedly has a personal grudge against Uzbeks due to his experience in captivity in 2001 under Abdul Rashid Dostum, a prominent Uzbek warlord.[10] Reports emerged in early December that Pashtun Taliban fighters were seizing land that belonged to local Uzbeks in Faryab Province.[11]

The revolt is the most serious incident so far in an escalating pattern of intra-Taliban conflict. ISW has previously assessed that IS-KP will try to take advantage of splits within the Taliban movement. Some of the Uzbek fighters under Makhdoom Alem’s command were already reported to have defected to IS-KP in December 2021. If the Taliban fail to deescalate this crisis, they could see a significant revolt in Faryab Province and create the possibility that revolting Uzbek fighters join IS-KP. Therefore, there is a strong possibility the Taliban will move to deescalate the crisis and release Makhdoom Alem. This action would likely pacify the revolt for the time being. Previous conflicts between Qari Salahuddin Ayoubi and Makhdoom Alem indicate the possibility that this latest incident is part of intra-Uzbek competition and that Salahuddin and Makhdoom are jockeying for power in northwestern Afghanistan.



[3] https://8am(dot)af/ps/uzbek-taliban-commander-arrested-uzbeks-protest-in-faryab/



[6] https://8am(dot)af/eyewitnesses-in-faryab-pashtun-taliban-disarmed-in-maimana/


[8] https://www(dot)etilaatroz(dot)com/134757/faryab-residents-protest-arrest-of-talibans-senior-commander/

[9] https://www(dot)etilaatroz(dot)com/134757/faryab-residents-protest-arrest-of-talibans-senior-commander/


[11] https://aamajnews24(dot)com/taliban-42/