Another lion found
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Saturday, 06 March 2010 21:20

PRT Herat | Day 26 – Thank you Chris. Your comment and questions to my “Hallelujah in Herat” blog led me on a very interesting journey. To catch everyone up, he basically asked “Why is Herat so nice,” and I went out and found some answers.

When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about writing about provincial reconstruction teams and what the Italians are doing here. Then I read his comments and decided to do a little Herat investigation. When I heared the answers, my ideas for a blog changed.

We went into the city and saw some construction projects and when we got back we ran to get some coffee. I walked into the shop and the shopkeeper is a 23-year-old Afghan from Herat. He speaks English well enough that I asked him Chris’s questions.

He told me Herat is so nice because half the people left when the Taliban took over. They moved to Iran and learned how nice life could be and when they returned, brought those dreams with them. He told me one million people used to live here before the Taliban, 500,000 left, and since the Taliban have been run out of town, the population has exploded to more than two million. I did a little fact checking with this, and the population may be quite a bit lower than his number.

He said there is corruption within the local government, but he generally feels safe and secure with the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army protecting him. He said the Taliban do have a shadow government in place, but nobody lends it any credibility.

I asked him about the availability of resources and he hadn’t really been out of Herat, so he couldn’t compare it. I surfed the web a bit tonight, and learned that Herat is a major player in the trade of goods with nations like Iran and Turkmenistan. Herat is a gateway city.

About this time, our conversation fell to the bottom of the priority list as a bunch of customers came in looking for coffee so I stepped outside for a cigarette and met another Afghan who owns a rug shop here. I asked him if he had time to chat, and he agreed. I went in and said bye to my new coffee shop friend and ran to the rugs. I asked him about security, and the fun started.

Please bear in mind, perceptions are reality, and Afghans perceive a lot. I will touch on this subject fr om his opinions and then provide a link for more in-depth reading which may be more factual.

He told me of a “very great man” and former Mujahedeen commander named Ismail Khan. He was the Governor of Herat soon after the Taliban were beaten out of the city. He told me how he brought security and reconstruction during his years here. Two years ago, the Taliban tried to gain a foothold in the area but Khan along with ISAF forces kept them out. Khan is now the Minister of Water and Energy, and from my conversation, he’s doing a great job because there’s water and electricity in Herat 24/7.

Now, from my research, Khan hasn’t been the governor since 2004 and his life has been one giant action movie. The reason for his “reassignment” to being Afghanistan’s Minister of Water and Energy is a lot more complicated. The best article I found about the man can be found here. I recommend reading it start to finish, because I really think it’s a great way to understand not only Khan, but Afghanistan politics.

If you choose to read the linked article, I would be really interested in hearing whether you believe the “Lion of Herat” is a warlord or a local militia leader, as discussed in my Day 24 blog.

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Comments (7)add comment

dennis said:

...
Is Ismail Khan living in Herat or Kabul.?
 
March 10, 2010
Votes: +0

dennis said:

AOG
Armed Opposition Group.Some Warlords,Tribal Leaders. Have been label this term.Someone who don't fully support the Government.
 
March 09, 2010
Votes: +0

Kevin said:

...
I noticed that article was written in 2004. I would be curious to see if Khan's position has been either strengthened or weakened by the increased presence of Coalition forces in the country in the last year or two. At some point he will have to agree to work with the central government and being a pragmatist maybe he will.
 
March 08, 2010
Votes: +0

Nathan Gallahan said:

AOG
What's an AOG Dennis? Sorry, I have a feeling I should probably know this by now smilies/smiley.gif
 
March 08, 2010
Votes: +0

dennis said:

The lion of Herat
Interesting link you posted,I did search his name on the web,and read items posted about him. And all confirm the Iran connection. But I don't see him as a puppet of Iran as some have suggested. I see a Opportunist when the need arises. Warlord maybe?. But if you don't jump on the bandwagon right away,could that cast doubts in others.? So can you tell me if he has been labeled a AOG.?
 
March 08, 2010
Votes: +0

Nathan Gallahan said:

Alan,
Not a problem! I was realy excited when i found the article. It really is a different world out here, and once everything has cooled down here, democracy in Afghanistan will not look anything like democracies in the western world.
 
March 07, 2010
Votes: +0

Alan Krutchkoff said:

Herat and Iran
Thanks guys. That's a heck of an interesting article on Herat, politics, Iran and Khan. Having been in Mashad years ago I can tell you it was definitely not a city where infidels are welcome! It shows you how delicate politics are in this region of the world. wow! thanks!
 
March 06, 2010
Votes: +0

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