Posted by: Christian | March 25, 2008

Who Will Rise?

When the state falls apart and conflict begins, who will rise to power? Who will become a prominent field commander? Who will be a successful conflict entrepreneur? There is of course no formula for predicting this accurately (too many variables). So, to illustrate the relative diversity of backgrounds, I have put together a list of faction leaders, commanders, “warlords,” and others who became prominent in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Photo: Tajikistan, early 1990s, the fog of war.

Tajik civil war

From a bus driver and a high school physical education teacher to countless mullahs and former soldiers, plus one McDonald’s employee, this is the arbitrary list of notable combatants and their immediate background.


  • Rashid Dostum: Afghan National Army paratrooper, natural gas pipefitter (plumber?), then natural gas infrastructure self defense militia organizer.
  • Gul Agha Sherzai: teenage mujahideen fighter.
  • Ahmad Shah Massoud: engineering student.
  • Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: engineering student.
  • Atta Mohammad Nur: high school teacher.
  • Mohammad Mohaqiq: Shia scholar?
  • Karim Khalili: Shia scholar?
  • Abdul Ali Mazari: Shia scholar.
  • Abdul Rasul Sayyaf: Sharia scholar/professor at The Shariat University, Kabul.
  • Burhanuddin Rabbani: Sharia scholar/professor at Kabul University
  • Mohammad Fahim: high school student, then refugee in Peshawar.
  • Ismael Khan: Afghan National Army captain.
  • Mullah Omar: teenage mujahideen fighter, then village mullah.
  • Mullah Dadullah: teenage mujahideen fighter, then village mullah.
  • Jalaluddin Haqqani: Maulana (religious scholar). Note that this is a title, but not necessarily a profession.
  • Sirajuddin Haqqani: son of the above.
  • Abdul Haq: son of Pashtun tribal notable who was a construction company executive.
  • Haji Matin: timber thief/harvester.
  • Yunis Khalis: educated in Sharia law, radio commentator.
  • Sibghatullah Mojaddedi: Of Arab descent, Islamic scholar, taught at Kabul University, Imam of mosque in Denmark.
  • Sayed Jafar Naderi: son of Ismaili notable, known as “Jeff Naderi” at high school in Pennsylvania, USA. Worked at McDonald’s. Not a member of a motorcycle gang as he claimed. Joined father’s militia.
  • Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi: Sufi scholar (Naqshbandi and Qadiri).

Photo: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, minus engineering degree.




  • Makhmud Khudoberdiev: Soviet officer who served in Afghanistan.
  • Sangak Safarov: convicted murderer (23 years in jail), bartender, mafia boss.
  • Yaqubjon Salimov: criminal associate of the above.
  • Faizali Saidov: served in Soviet army in East Germany.
  • Ibod Boymatov: bus driver.
  • Suhrob Kasymov: physical education school teacher.
  • Mirzokhuja Nizomov: Soviet militia officer, officer in Tajik MVD (KGB).
  • Langari Langiev: former MVD officer.
  • Mahmadsaid Ubadullayev: deputy regional Communist leader.
  • Mahmud Boimatov: collective farm boss.
  • Makhmadruzi Iskandarov: construction worker.
  • Kholbash Kholbashev: Tajik MVD officer.
  • Sayid Abdullah Nuri: underground religious teacher.
  • Ghaffor Mirzoev: deputy commander of Ministry of Interior special brigade.
  • Akbar Mirzoev: regional communist leader.
  • Akbar Turajonzoda: official Soviet Muslim clergyman.
  • Abdullah Abdurahim: local mullah.
  • Saidashraf Abdulahadov: local mullah.
  • Kari Kiyamiddin Muhammadjon: local mullah.
  • Mullah Amriddin: local mullah.

Photo: Mahmud Khudoberdiev, Soviet veteran of the Afghan War.


Feel free to add your own or disagree with any of the above facts.


%d bloggers like this: