Afghanistan: Warlord, profiteer, idealogue, chief

The Far Eastern Economic Review
Herat, just 120 kilometres from the Iranian border and the former centre of several glittering Central Asian civilizations, is now the site of a tense stand-off between Iran and the U.S.
Herat is now the front line of America's fight against what U.S. President George W. Bush calls the "axis of evil." Ismail Khan, 56, is a celebrated and charismatic anti-Soviet warlord who has liberated the city twice - once in 1992 from the communists and again last year from the Taliban. Khan is a master of the Afghan art of balancing the interests of outsiders while extracting maximum benefit from them. In contrast to his progressive past, Khan has taken on a hardline Islamic ideology. He has decreed against women taking off the burqa and stopped a celebration of Women's Day on March 8. "We expected our freedom but Ismail Khan has become more fundamentalist than he was before. Why can't we have the same rights as the women in Kabul?" says a female teacher.