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Afghanistan: “Marg” force to confront Islamic State and Taliban?

January 28, 2015

Summary: curious reports of a new armed group intending to confront Taliban and ISIS should be treated cautiously. Might old school warlords be manoeuvring post NATO…?…

cropped-19thc-afghan-map-8.jpgTrying to follow the “IS in Afghanistan” theme has thrown up another confusing lead.  Khaama Press report that a new force, called “Marg” (meaning death) is forming in northern Afghanistan, with a mission to confront both the Taliban and IS:

Khaama Press, 27 Jan, 2015: A new group calling themselves “Marg” or “Death” announced its existence in northern Afghanistan. Dozens of members of “Marg” group yesterday went to the provincial council of northern Balkh province and announce their readiness to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Taliban in Afghanistan.  Although the group did not carry a flag which has been normal if any group comes into existence in Afghanistan but their clothes were made off three colors which is the flag of Afghanistan, this can be their distinguish from other groups operating in Afghanistan. Marg Group claims that more than 5,000 people have announced their allegiance with them to fight ISIS and Taliban.  Marg Group says there is no difference between ISIS and Taliban and that all of them are enemies of Afghanistan. Marg Group also called on Afghans to join their group for defense of their country and people.

Analysis and Outlook

There seems only to be one report, spread over several news agencies.  I would certainly shy away from believing the figure of 5,000 fighters.  As with the reports of IS emerging in Afghanistan, I cannot but help being suspicious. I sense that the same old warlords of the Taliban and non-Taliban type are involved here, exploiting possible new seams of power, influence and money, perhaps perceiving a post-NATO power vacuum. Dostum was apparently recently touting (actually, “re-touting” – he has had this idea for a few years now) the idea of a new 20,000-strong force of fighters, controlled by him – funny enough. This force would be based in the north and go down south to confront the Taliban (and anyone else that might be judged some sort of threat, I guess).

Daily Outlook, 20 Jan 2015: The commander of Afghan National Army Ground Forces Gen. Murad Ali Murad has rejected the plan by first vice president Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum to fight the Taliban insurgents.  The first vice president had earlier proposed to establish 20,000 militia forces for the repression of the Taliban fighters.  Gen. Dostum had proposed that the militia forces should alongside the Afghan National Army forces to fight against the Taliban insurgents.  However, Gen. Murad said Sunday that the establishment of parallel forces and outside the formation of the Afghan National Security forces (ANSF) is not acceptable

Is it too early to speculate on the possibility of new manoeuvrings of regional warlords in the post-NATO Afghanistan? If this new force ,”Marg”, is real, rather than some disgruntled local chief, and coming from Balkh province in the north, this might point towards Mohammed Atta or Rashid Dostum. Anything that looks to bypass central government authority – and the Afghan National Army – even if professing to confront the Taliban, could well undermine the country’s stability.

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