Despite denials from the Turkish Foreign Ministry that he is in exile, General Abdur Rashid Dostum is still in the country and shows no signs of returning to Afghanistan any time soon (see my post of 4 Dec 2008 below for more details about his departure).
When Dostum left Afghanistan on a private jet in early December the official explanation was that he was visiting his wife and nine children (who live in Ankara) during Eid al Adha and that he would be returning soon after. But nearly two months later and there is no sign that he is about to leave Turkey.
According to one source I have spoken to, Dostum's departure was arranged by the CIA and the Turkish intelligence service. The source maintains that the General had become a serious thorn in the side of everyone in Kabul, where his outbursts and irrational behaviour were causing consternation.
It was already known that his kidnapping of and attack on Akbar Bai in February 2008 had left President Karzai with a serious problem.
Then it was announced by the Physicians for Human Rights group that in the summer of 2008 Dostum's men had destroyed the site of a mass grave at Dasht-e-Leili near Sheberghan in northern Afghanistan. To be more precise, they had cleared the site - where around 2,000 former Taliban fighters had been killed in November 2001 by Dostum's men - with bulldozers, depositing the remains into a local river.
The site was officially a war crimes site and disturbing it is a very serious offence.
Nor was Dostum the only Uzbek causing problems for Karzai's government. A former commander in Dostum's Jumbesh-e-Melli party, Abdul Rahim, was accused in August 2008 of rape and murder and levying illegal taxes. Residents of Sarang Cherak district in Sar-e-Pul, close to Balkh, took to the streets demanding action against Rahim. And in July 2008 another former Dostum commander, Kamaluddin, was arrested on charges of multiple murder and land expropriation.
So, it seems, a plan was drawn up to get rid of Dostum. As I previously reported, President Karzai - who has looked indecisive in this whole affair- agreed to drop charges against Dostum if he would leave the country, at least for a while.
My source says that after a few weeks in Turkey, Dostum telephoned former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani to complain that he had asked for a return flight to Afghanistan, but that it had been made clear to him he was not going anywhere. The penny finally dropped and Dostum realised he had been tricked and that there was little chance he would be returning to Kabul.