KABUL Dec 3 An Afghan cabinet minister and
one-time warlord called on Monday on former anti-Soviet
guerrillas to regroup and rearm to prevent a slide into civil
war once most foreign forces leave the country by the end of
Ismail Khan, the energy and water minister and an
influential former mujahideen commander, reiterated during a
parliamentary session a call to arms that incensed Afghan
officials and led some lawmakers to try to impeach him on
But Khan emerged unscathed with the support of 140 of 172
members present, dealing a blow to efforts by President Hamid
Karzai to assuage public fears about the effectiveness of
Afghanistan's security forces after their foreign backers leave.
Brought into Karzai's government as a symbol of national
unity, Khan was chided last month for urging people in his power
base of the western Herat province to "step forward, take arms
and defend the country" in areas where police and troops were
unable to operate.
Khan insisted he was committed to Afghanistan's stable
future, having played a role in the creation of the current
"I'm not making my speech here as a minister but as a person
who has fought for more than 21 years for the independence of
Afghanistan," he said during a 90-minute rebuttal, televised
live on state television.
"I call from this tribune to all mujahideen not only in
Herat, but all mujahideen in Afghanistan, the saviour soldiers
of this country - don't let it go back to insecurity."
The government is concerned "irresponsible armed groups"
could heed Khan's request and undermine efforts to win public
confidence in the 350,000 foreign-trained Afghan security
The regrouping of militias could also further destabilise
the country by renewing tribal and ethnic conflicts and turf
wars over wealth, resources and power.
Mohammad Naeem Lalai Hamidzai, a lawmaker for Kandahar
province, accused Khan during the debate of distributing weapons
and trying to consolidate his political power in Herat.
"Do you think that this is the time to have a
parallel security structure, against our strong national
security forces?" he asked him. "You are the cabinet minister...
Why don't you call on our mujahideen to support Afghan security
Violence is intensifying across Afghanistan ahead of the
withdrawal of the bulk of foreign troops and an election in
April of 2014, which will bring an end to Karzai's final term in
office and has led to concerns about poll fraud and power
Peace talks facilitated by U.S. diplomats involving the
Afghan government and Taliban representatives broke down in
March and efforts to revive them appear to be stumbling.
In the past two weeks, suicide attacks claimed by the
Taliban have targeted symbols of the Western presence in
Afghanistan, including a NATO base in Kabul's diplomatic enclave
and two U.S. military installations, killing more than a dozen
Afghan police and soldiers and wounding scores of civilians.
Five people were killed in a suicide attack at a U.S.
airfield in Jalalabad on Sunday. Two bombers and seven
insurgents armed with rifles and rockets were also killed.
(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie)