Marshal Mohammed Qasim Fahim Khan
Marshal [not Marshall] Mohammed Qasim Fahim Khan is an ethnic Tajik who succeeded Ahmed Shah Mahsood as the Military Commander of the United Front (Northern Alliance) when Masoud was assassinated in 2001. Today Fahim and his Northern Alliance faction form the backbone of Karzai's government, set up after the United States toppled the Taliban regime in 2001. Fahim at first was Karzai's vice president, and survived an attempt on his life in the eastern city of Jalalabad during a spring visit in 2002.
Qasim Fahim was one of three members of the Northern Alliance's Shura-e Nazar faction from Panjsher Province who obtained a powerful cabinet post through the Bonn accords of late 2001. The others -- Yunis Qanuni and Abdullah Abdullah -- also used their de facto control of Kabul at the time of the Bonn meeting to negotiate for ministry posts. The triumvirate of Fahim as defense minister, Qanuni as interior minister, and Abdullah as the foreign minister was -- in the beginning -- representive of the three main factions of Shura-e Nazar.
Born in a small village in the Panjshir Valley to a Muslim cleric, Fahim went on to study Islamic law in Kabul. Towards the end of the 1970s he joined the anti-Soviet resistance. Under Masood's command, Fahim gained a reputation as a sturdy and reliable leader of men -- a rare phenomenon in a war of turncoats. Fighting the Red Army across northeastern Afghanistan, he was quickly promoted to head intelligence operations, after Masood's forces entered Kabul in 1992. Fahim was given charge of the defence of Kabul's southern frontlines, under almost daily rocket and mortar barrages, first from rival Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and then by the Pashtun Taliban movement. The general played a central role in the September 1996 strategic withdrawal from Kabul, returning to the Tajik heartland of the Panjshir to continue battling the Taliban, both in the valley and in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where bloody fighting erupted in 1997. Prior to the fall of the Taliban, Fahim was a factional leader of the Northern Alliance. On September 13, 2001, Fahim was confirmed as the senior military commander of the Northern Alliance, succeeding Ahmad Shah Masood. Masood had been assassinated four days earlier. By September 22, Fahim was in Tajikistan holding talks with Russian army chief Anatoly Kvashnin.
Mohammad Qasim Fahim became the defense minister of the Afghan Transitional Administration in 2002. While holding the position, he continued to command his own militia. However, on December 10, 2003, he ordered part of his militia to transport their weapons (including 11 tanks, 10 rocket-launchers and two scud missiles) to an Afghan National Army installation near Kabul.
As defense minister he has toured army bases in Great Britain, negotiated security issues with U.S General Tommy Franks and Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum, NATO Secretary General George Robertson, visited Moscow and Washington, DC. He also replaced 15 ethnic Tajik generals with officers from the Pashtun, Uzbek and Hazara ethnic groups
In June of 2003, a bomb was found in front of his home. Later in the year, the head of his personal security died at the hands of a suicide bomber.
On September 12, 2003, Miloon Kothari, appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to investigate housing rights in Afghanistan, announced that Fahim and Education Minister Yunus Qanooni were illegally occupying land and should be removed from their posts. However, three days later, Kothari sent a letter to Lakhdar Brahimi, the head of the U.N in Afghanistan, saying he had gone too far in naming the ministers.
As a top leader in the Northern Alliance - the primary military faction that joined with the US to oust the Taliban - Mr. Fahim is making no secret of the fact that he and his fellow ethnic Tajiks are not willing to be sidelined during the run-up to the presidential elections. A power struggle between Fahim and President Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, has Western diplomats and coalition commanders concerned. Any change in leadership is seen as an unwanted distraction from the process of nationbuilding and the war on terrorism.
As head of the embryonic national army, Mohammed Qasim Fahim is arguably Afghanistan's most powerful warlord, but the defence minister, who has failed to win nomination for vice-president in elections set for October, has also acted as a brake on an arduous disarmament drive. A former intelligence officer for the Northern Alliance, Fahim has emerged in recent years as an able administrator and is seen by many as the most effective man in charge of the Afghan military.
In August 2004, Fahim withdrew his support of interim Afghan President Hamid Karzai and backed his ethnic Tajik countryman and former Education Minister, Yunus Qanuni in the upcoming presidential elections in October. Afghanistan's ruling Northern Alliance fielded their own candidate for the presidential elections after President Karzai dropped Fahim as one of his running mates as a vice president and instead named Ahmad Zia Masood (also spelled Masoud), the brother of slain Afghan national hero and famous mujahideen commander, Ahmed Shah Masoud, an ethnic Tajik from Panjshir valley. Karzai's move to drop Fahim as his running mate was reportedly welcomed by some western diplomats who often saw Fahim as an obstacle to the disarmament of private militias in the country. Fahim said he would push for the disarmament of militias in the country, adding that he would work for a peaceful political campaign. Fahim said he would not allow anyone to resort to violence and harm the election process.
Fahim, a former mujaheddin commander and leader of the Northern Alliance's military forces after the 2001 assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, appeared in Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups [DIAG] records as having completed disarmament, with his lieutenants integrated into the Afghan security forces and his 100-man personal security detail under MOI license.
First Vice President Fahim delivered significant numbers of Tajik voters for Karzai in the 2009 election. In the run-up to the 20 August 2009 elections, some questioned whether former Defense Minister Fahim could effectively activate his former sub-commanders to generate votes for President Karzai, widely despised in Panjshir, where he captured less than 1 percent of the vote in 2004. Karzai's take of nearly 28 percent this time around -- despite Governor Bahlol's efforts to suppress those votes -- suggests Panjshir's informal Mujahadeen structures remained largely intact. When Governor Bahlol departs office, he seemed likely to be replaced by another ex-Mujahadeen -- this time loyal to Fahim.
There were rumors that Karzai was concerned over Fahim's political clout and was unlikely to give him too much control over the defense or interior ministries. However, other speculated that Karzai promised Fahim that, in exchange for his support, his ethnic allies (Tajiks, Panjshiris) would enjoy significant representation in one of the two key security ministries, Interior and Defense.
President Karzai sent most of the cabinet list to the Parliament on 19 December 2009 with the notable exception of National Directorate for Security (NDS) Chief Saleh. This list represented only a modest upgrade in Karzai's cabinet talent. It appears Karzai chose ministers based on compromises between the wishes of the international community and the traditional powerbrokers to whom he is beholden to, including Dostum, Mohaqqeq, Ismail Khan, Fahim Khan, Khalili and Sayyaf.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list