General Dostum on Thursday resigned as President Karzai’s military adviser in order to stand against him in the poll on 9 October.

This is very bad news. More than the ethnic Uzbeks in the Northern region he controls, Dostum represents the worst of the warlordism that gave the Northern Alliance a bad name.

The forces he commanded in Kabul in the mid-1990s were accused of atrocities against civilians and extensively looted the capital.

He has made a career out of constantly shifting sides, to be with the winner. He was a pro-Soviet commander, who even received a medal from the Soviets for his work in fighting the mujahedeen. Then he joined the mujahedeen, and even allied himself at one point with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

In November of 2002, the United Nations began an investigation of alleged human rights abuses by Dostum. Witnesses claimed that Dostum jailed and tortured witnesses to prevent them from testifying in a war crimes case. Dostum is also under suspicion for the events of the Dasht-i-Leili massacre.

The problem is, Dostum actually stands a chance in the election. It seems that continued turmoil in the South-East, where Karzai’s strongest support is to be found, is preventing many people from registering for the vote, while Dostum wields enough power in his home state to guarantee himself the vote. It is likely that other warlords, who don’t like Karzai’s attempts to disarm their private armies, will also support Dostum. This is a disaster in the making, but Bush needs for the Afghans to have a democratic” election before our own election so that he can show that he’s brought freedom” to Afghanistan.