Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs U.S. Department of State
2201 C St. NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Inderfurth,
We were greatly troubled to learn that a State Department official will be meeting today with Gen. Abdul Malik Pahlavan of Afghanistan. As you are aware, Gen. Malik is believed to be responsible for the summary executions of Taliban prisoners following a failed coup attempt against General Dostum of the Junbish-i Milli-yi Islami in May 1997. Hundreds of Taliban were attacked in Mazar-i Sharif and killed at that time, and at least 2,000 taken prisoner, only to be summarily executed by Malik's forces. Their bodies were dumped in wells or taken to remote desert sites and left lying in the open. We understand that other factions also played a role in the attacks on the Taliban, including the Hizb-i Wahdat, whose members reportedly gunned down Taliban troops in the streets and may have killed some of those in custody.
While it is clear that virtually every faction in Afghanistan is responsible for grave abuses of international humanitarian law, we believe that the State Department has to draw a line in cases where there strong evidence that someone is personally responsible for gross abuses.
We understand that the State Department routinely meets with representatives of various Afghan factions with an aim of promoting a dialogue that might lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and we support such efforts. We also understand that such meetings should not be construed as an endorsement of the policies or actions of any particular faction.
However, Gen. Malik does not represent just another faction in Afghanistan. Under international law, the killings for which he is believed responsible represent crimes against humanity. No perpetrator of such crimes should even be granted the courtesy of a meeting at the State Department. The aim of diplomacy is not to protect individuals accused of mass murder.
Instead, the U.S. should be using its influence to ensure that there be a thorough investigation by an impartial body of the May 1997 killings in Mazar-i Sharif and the subsequent massacre in August 1998, when the Taliban captured the city. On the basis of evidence uncovered during such investigations, it may be possible to bring to justice some of those responsible for gross abuses in Afghanistan, including Gen. Malik. But the first objective of these investigations should be to establish the truth about the killings and other abuses that took place. The U.S. can and should play a leading role in this by urging that governments in the region as well as concerned agencies and departments in the U.N. support such an investigation.
Executive Director of the Asia Division
cc.: John Shattuck, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
cc.: Eric Schwartz, NSC