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Born 1946 (1946)
Nickname Lion of Herat
Place of birth Herat, Afghanistan
Battles/wars Soviet war in Afghanistan,
Civil war in Afghanistan,
Operation Enduring Freedom
Other work Governor of Herat Province,
Minister of Water and Energy
Ismail Khan (born 1946), an ethnic Tajik from Herat, Afghanistan, was a powerful Mujahedeen commander in the Soviet War in Afghanistan, and then a key member of the Northern Alliance, later the Governor of Herat Province and is now the Minister of Energy for the country. He is a key member of the political party Jamiat-e Islami and the new party United National Front.
1 Early years
1.1 Resistance against the Taliban
2 Post-Taliban era
3 Assassination attempt
3.1 Testimony requested by a Guantanamo captive
5 Notes and references
6 External links
 Early years
Ismail Khan assessing mujahideen troops during the anti-Soviet jihad.In early 1979 Ismail Khan was a Captain in the Afghan National Army based in the western city of Herat. In early March, there was a protest in front of the Communist governor's palace against the arrests and assassinations being carried out in the countryside. The governor's troops opened fire on the demonstrators, who proceeded to storm the palace and hunt down Soviet advisers. The Herat garrison mutinied and joined the revolt, with Ismail Khan and other officers distributing all available weapons to the insurgents. The communist government led by Nur Mohammed Taraki responded, pulverizing the city using Soviet supplied bombers and killing an estimated 24,000 citizens in less than a week. This event marked the opening salvo of the rebellion which led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. Ismail Khan escaped to the countryside where he started to assemble a local mujahideen army, which was widely supported by the population of Herat.
During the ensuing war, he became the leader of the western command of Burhanuddin Rabbani's Jamiat-e-Islami. With Ahmad Shah Massoud, he was one of the most respected mujahideen leaders. In 1992, two years after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the mujahideen captured Herat, and Ismail Khan became Governor.
 Resistance against the Taliban
In 1995, he successfully defended his province against the Taliban, in cooperation with Massoud. He even attacked the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, but was repulsed. Later, an ally of the Jamiat, Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum changed sides, and attacked Herat. Ismail Khan was forced to flee to Iran with 8,000 men and the Taliban took over Herat.
Two years later, while organising opposition to the Taliban in Faryab area, he was betrayed and captured by Abdul Majid Rouzi who had defected to the Taliban along with Abdul Malik, then one of Dostum's deputies. Then in March 1999 he escaped from Kandahar prison. During the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, he fought against the Taliban within the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (Northern Alliance) and thus regained his position as Governor of Herat.
 Post-Taliban era
Ismail Khan in 2004After returning to Herat, Ismail Khan quickly consolidated his control over the region. He took over control of the city from the local ulema and quickly established control over the trade route between Herat and Iran, a large source of revenue. As Emir of Herat, Ismail Khan exercised great autonomy, providing social welfare for Heratis, expanding his power into neighbouring provinces, and maintaining direct international contacts. Although hated by the educated in Herat and often accused of human rights abuses, Ismail Khan's regime provided security, paid government employees, and made investments in public services. However, during his tenure as Governor, Ismail Khan was accused of ruling his province like a private fiefdom, leading to increasing tensions with the Afghan Transitional Administration. In particular, he refused to pass on to the government the revenues gained from custom taxes on goods from Iran and Turkmenistan.
Ismail Khan was ultimately removed from power in March 2004 due to pressure by neighbouring warlords and the central Afghan government. Various sources have presented different versions of the story, and the exact dynamics cannot be known with certainty. What is known is that Ismail Khan found himself at odds with a few regional commanders who, although theoretically his subordinates, attempted to remove him from power. Ismail Khan claims that these efforts began with a botched assassination attempt. Afterwards, the forces of these commanders moved their forces near Herat. Ismail Khan, unpopular with the Herati military class, was slow to mobilise his forces, perhaps waiting for the threat to Herat to become existential as a means to motivate his forces. However, the conflict was stopped with the intervention of International Security Assistance Force forces and soldiers of the Afghan National Army, freezing the conflict in its tracks. Ismail Khan's forces even fought skirmishes with the Afghan National Army, in which his son, Mirwais Sadiq was killed. Because Ismail Khan was contained by the Afghan National Army, the warlords who opposed him were quickly able to occupy strategic locations unopposed. Ismail Khan was forced to give up his governorship and to go to Kabul, where he served in Karzai's cabinet as the Minister of Energy.
 Assassination attempt
On September 27, 2009, Ismail Khan survived a suicide blast that killed 4 of his bodyguards in Herat, in western Afghanistan. He was driving to Herat Airport when a powerful explosion occurred on the way there. Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility and said the target was Khan.
 Testimony requested by a Guantanamo captive
Guantanamo captive Abdul Razzaq Hekmati requested Ismail Khan's testimony, when he was called before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal. Ismail Khan, like Afghan Minister of Defense Rahim Wardak, was one of the high profile Afghans that those conducting the Tribunals ruled were "not reasonably available" to give a statement on a captive's behalf because they could not be located.
Hekmati had played a key role in helping Ismail Khan escape from the Taliban in 1999. Hekmati stood accused of helping Taliban leaders escape from the custody of Hamid Karzai's government.
Carlotta Gall and Andy Worthington interviewed Ismail Khan for a new New York Times article after Hekmati died of cancer in Guantanamo. According to the New York Times Ismail Khan said he personally buttonholed the American ambassador to tell him that Hekmati was innocent, and should be released. In contrast, Hekmati was told that the State Department had been unable to locate Khan.
Ismail Khan is a controversial figure. Reporters Without Borders has charged him with muzzling the press and ordering attacks on journalists. Also Human Rights Watch has accused him of human rights abuses. After the fall of the Taliban when Ismail Khan regained control of Herat, he established an Islamic police, who would beat anyone who was found drinking and then parade them through the city with their heads shaved.
Nevertheless, he remains a popular figure for some in Afghanistan. Unlike other mujahideen commanders, Khan has not been linked to large-scale massacres and atrocities such as those committed after the capture of Kabul in 1992. Moreover, during his Governorship, Herat province has enjoyed relative peace and prosperity, with Khan using the money drawn from customs revenues to repair much of the damage done by the Soviets and the Taliban. Following news of his dismissal, rioting broke out in the streets of Herat, and President Karzai had to ask him to make a personal appeal for calm.
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