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Battling warlords try civility

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These many not sound like the words of a kinder, gentler warlord, but the intent to turn over a new leaf seems genuine. Just a day earlier, Dostum signed an agreement with General Muhammed – with whom Dostum's men were engaged in battles just a week ago – to remove all heavy artillery, machines guns, and ammunition from Mazar-e Sharif and move them to military garrisons, and to create a combined, 600-member multiethnic force to police the city, with an eye toward discouraging abuses of minority groups.

Dostum was already such a key figure in the anti-Taliban resistance that interim government Chairman Hamid Karzai appointed him deputy defense minister last December, and just recently made Dostum his special envoy to the north.

Now, instead of shying away from the accusations – a team of forensic investigators were here earlier this week to investigate allegations of mass graves from the time of the Taliban's retreat – Dostum is trying to get neighborhood warlords to recognize that the world is watching. "You must be careful in the future. These are very dangerous men," he said of the investigators who carried out the report. "They can take you to an international court of justice if they can prove your actions."

The report, compiled by Human Rights Watch and entitled "Paying for the Taliban's Crimes," was a chilling litany of rape and murder. A great portion of the crimes were committed against Pashtuns, targeted presumably because the Taliban were also Pashtun.

The liberation of Mazar-e Sharif left long-competing warlords to vie for control of the city. Dostum's troops have had control of the region, but security chief Muhammed has wielded the most control in the city itself.

But, in perhaps the most propitious sign this city has seen since the Taliban's retreat, the two strongmen embraced yesterday after each of more than 90 commanders signed an agreement to solve differences through negotiations, not bloodshed, and to stop harming civilians.

"Let's bury the enmity in the graves, just as we have buried thousands," Dostum said yesterday.

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