Not Shedding Tears for Salangi

by Joshua Foust on 8/15/2011 · 9 comments

The governor of Parwan was faced a major, complex attack this weekend:

Just then, as he later recalled the moment, there were two explosions as a group of suicide bombers blew their way into the governor’s compound. In the three-hour firefight that followed, the attackers killed 22 people — 6 of them police officers, the rest government staff members and civilian visitors — before they were subdued.

Along the way, Salangi claims to have killed two attackers from his desk, which isn’t quite the feat of derring-do he probably thinks it is. As Christian Bleuer noted: “Governor Salangi, in fighting off the attackers personally, must have lost valuable time that he usually uses to steal land.”

That’s hardly the end of it. Salangi is one of those Tajik warlords all the human rights people freaked out about in 2001 and 2002. As a commander in Ahmed Shah Massoud’s militia-party Jamiat-i Islami, he was given a prominent job as the Chief of Police in Kabul. He lost that post in 2002, however, when he illegally bulldozed houses in some poor neighborhoods and sold the land to his friends. The scandal prompted his transfer to Wardak. He was also implicated in a 2003 incident where he personally beat and kicked university students who were protesting unfair grading practices.

Governor Salangi is a thug, in other words, one we probably shouldn’t be too sad to see attacked when we ponder the country’s future. While the loss of the police officers is sad, and sadly typical, we should expect more attacks like this. The Taliban will never lose support going after these monstrous men we have stupidly empowered and supported—and that says more about our prospects for victory than any single suicide attack.

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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 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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Jawan Kohistani August 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Joshua Foust,

Have you just missed the fact that 20+ ordinary people were killed by the Taliban in that attack ?! What on earth could the justification be for killing all of those innocent people just to get to Mr Salangi ? You are an extremely bitter and sad individual to try to find a justification for this murderous action of the Taliban…

How can stealing land and beating a student (even if true) be justification for the Taliban when they did that and worse on an industrial scale between 1996-2001, particularly in Parwan province.

Salangi punished the Taliban very effectively between 1996-2001 and he did it again in this incident…and now that some publication of the west are trying to glorify his personal stand against the Talib zombie army of suicide bombers…you should not feel so embittered..and instead remind people that despite the heroics of Salangi the murderous Taliban still killed so many innocent people….and talk about the real motivations of those whom send these Zombie suicide bombers.

To omit the real causes…namely that Salangi is an effective actor against the Pakistani proxy known as the Taliban and that his removal will make the job of the Taliban easier in Parwan province is at the very least evidence of gross incompetence on your part.

Osman August 20, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Calling the Taliban proxies of Pakistan does not change the fact that this current government are hand chosen proxies of dozens of nations. You know, the ones physically occupying the country with 150,000 troops?

The justification of the attack by the Taliban against this thug is that this guy was working against the Taliban. Do you think Salangi cares when innocents are bombed by NATO? Of course not, they are the ones paying his salary. The reason there would be no tears shed for him if he were to die is because he is your run of the mill warlord criminal.

Nick Hanz August 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm

@Jawan Kohistani,

Actually, there were security guards, and Salangi’s employees. Just pointing out that what you call innocent may not be innocent to others, especially those Salangi has been committing crimes against.

Jawan Kohistani August 17, 2011 at 1:41 am


They were folk collecting their identity cards and pay…not on active duty…And these crimes you talk of…what exactly are they and where is the proof ?

Do you even know what the Taliban did in Parwan between 1996-2001 ? If you or Joshua knew or cared to find out – you would understand the extreme remoteness of the local population supporting the Taliban against a native of their own province with a proven record of resisting the crimes of the Taliban.

There are real causes to this incident, but the ‘stealing of land’ or beating of a student’ are not them.

Any journalist worth the name would make a real effort to find the motive behind the attack…

The moaning and wailing of Joshua about supporting ‘criminal warlords’ simply kicks attention away from the real reason for the current problems…namely the safe havens in Pakistan & the ISI support therein.

Faisal August 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Whats that phrase again….oh yeah “collateral damage”.

Nick Hanz August 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Yes, everything in Afghanistan bleeds Pakistani and ISI green.

This story has been beaten to death with. Of course Pakistan has an interest in seeing the US leave just as Iran does, but that does not deny the legitimacy of the Afghan resistance to the US.

It is absurd to suggest otherwise.

What do you call Helmand? Paktia? Nuristan? Wardak? All these are strongholds for the Afghan resistance against the US whether it be Taliban or some other group of Afghans.

To go even further, resistances always have bases of support within and outside the country. Outside the country, especially when there are common interests at a point in time.

Again, on your reasoning, every single resistance in the history if the world was baseless and wrong.

You would also have us believe that everyone in the world accepts occupation?

Toryalay Shirzay August 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Nick, once again your understandings of the nuances of Afghanistan do not jibe with the realities of the current situation in Afghanistan.I get the feeling you mean well once you get all the facts about the war straight.

Nick Hanz August 17, 2011 at 11:19 pm


I will never believe anyone who tells/ or suggest to me that Afghans do not resist a foreign imposed war on them, whether is be by the Soviets or the US.

It is simple fact (supported by polls and US reports) that show that Afghans, especially the rural Afghans will never tolerate a US war imposed on them.

Every person in the world would resist anyone who fought them on their land.

There is no historical evidence that suggest otherwise.

What you are suggesting will never make sense.

Now, the best way forward for a free Afghanistan is talks between all Afghan parties mediated by a neutral power.

The US, while in the process of a defeat, needs to go for peace to be established. They are the reason the Afghans fight.

Dan Smock August 27, 2011 at 5:51 am

As always, interesting article…and the coments…get a little muddled. Ah well.

Something I hadn’t put together: Taliban attack a known thug, so they’re able to a) destabilize the government, and b) maintain their reputation as fighting for the people against evil.

So, this being a war of perception, the Taliban win this one. And, there’s really no way for ISAF messaging to counter that.

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