He Forgot to Mention the Uighurs

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by Joshua Foust on 5/31/2011 · 1 comment

According to Pajhwok:

A Chechen fighter was killed and two of his Afghan associates were wounded in a mortar shell explosion in central Kapisa province on Monday, police said.

The police, in this case represented by Tagab District Police Chief Abdul Hakim, told Pajhwok that “the presence of militants, including Uzbeks, Chechens and Waziristan residents, was posing serious a threat to peace in Tarakhel.” This is indeed true—though I’d say that the peace was threatened in central Kapisa back in, oh, 2006 or so.

Here’s the thing, too. I remember, in 2009, hearing from the NDS chief in Tagab (he’s since been killed, RIP) that there were hundreds of foreign fighters in the Tagab, all eager to destroy things and create trouble. While there probably are a few in there somewhere, Abdul Hakim is just being ridiculous about the whole concept.

To give some context, actual Chechens are fond of claiming they killed French people by the dozens. Other officials in Kapisa, who are quick to blurt out the name of any Afghans who get killed in the fighting, can never produce the names the Arabs and Chechens and Uzbeks who die by the dozen in their province. Going all the way back to 2001, Uzbeks, Chechens, and Pakistanis have been the “Lions and Tigers and Bears OH MY” of Afghan officials, eager to tell reporters that the problems in the places they run are not caused by locals, or their own mismanagement, but sinister—and nameless, always nameless—outsiders intent on ruining their good work.

Suffice to say, there are no Chechens in Kapisa. I spent enough years working on Kapisa issues to know for a fact that if there were all these Chechens and Arabs and Uzbeks there even the Pashtuns of Tagab—to say nothing of the Tajiks in Mahmoud-i Raqi or the Pashai of Alasay—would freak out at the outsiders meddling in their war. As I reported from my trip there in 2009, the conflicts in Kapisa are local, and they have to do with politics going back into the mid-1990s. Chechens and Uzbeks and Waziris wouldn’t be welcome there, even among the insurgents and gangsters who perform most of the violence.

Perhaps we should think about the market we’ve created for obviously false reporting on Chechens and other foreigners, because of our habit of freaking out over stereotyped magically invincible numberless nameless ethnic super-warriors. It’s become deeply counterproductive to understanding the war.

Picture: the Tagab police station, taken by me, in 2009. “Old Blue” was in this same area in 2008, and has a wonderful photo gallery as well.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

AnonymousHoward June 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Can’t find anywhere better for it, so here (at around 8m50s) is another one for your world-traveling Chechens file: Jeffrey Gettleman of the NYT telling the World Service that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was bringing ‘Afghans, Pakistanis and Chechens‘ to Somalia to join the Shabaab.

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