Afghan Governor Refuses to Leave His Post, Escalating Showdown

Afghan Governor Refuses to Leave His Post, Escalating Showdown


“Your teeth will not sink into us,” Mr. Noor said, referring to Mr. Abdullah. “We will break your teeth.”

The crowd chanted: “Death to Dr. Abdullah.”

Although Mr. Noor used his great wealth and power, accumulated over his years as governor, to back Mr. Abdullah in the presidential race, relations between the men soured soon after the coalition government was formed. Mr. Noor saw Mr. Abdullah as too soft in the face of Mr. Ghani’s efforts to marginalize their bloc.

Before Mr. Noor spoke out on Saturday, some of his supporters had been trying to negotiate with Mr. Ghani’s office to find a way out of the clash. Mr. Ghani has already named a new governor of Balkh Province, but Mr. Noor has said that choosing his own successor is one of his conditions for leaving the governorship. He also wants certain senior government positions to go to members of his party.

While Mr. Noor urged his supporters to protest civilly, he also made not-so-subtle references that strongmen in the north would lend a hand if force were needed. He said that Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Afghan vice president who also has a strong base in the north but is in exile in Turkey on charges of abducting and raping an opponent, had told him that all his men were under Mr. Noor’s command.

Just as during the tense times of the 2014 election, many fear that the political infighting could fracture the country’s nascent security forces, which are fighting a difficult war against the Taliban. Two senior security officials in the north — the deputy police chief of Balkh Province, Gen. Abdul Razaq Qaderi, and the head of the civil order police, Gen. Haseebullah Quraishi — both said that they support Mr. Noor.

“This rank of general, the cars and money — these are temporary,” General Quraishi said of Mr. Noor. “Whoever comes, they will have to shed my blood first.”

The Afghan interior minister, Wais Ahmad Barmak, said the men had made a mistake by taking sides in a political dispute.

“Police should remain impartial and independent,” Mr. Barmak told Afghan news outlets.

But General Quraishi sat in the front row during Saturday’s speech, clapping as Mr. Noor lashed out at the government. He wore his uniform.

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