In The New York Review of Books, Ahmed Rashid, writing about Afghanistan, reports on a character assessment:
When US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Herat on April 29, 2002, he described [Ismail] Khan as "an appealing person, thoughtful, measured, and self-confident."
Rashid notes that this is perhaps too kind:
In two reports at the end of 2002, HRW [Human Rights Watch] described the horrific situation in western Afghanistan where Ismail Khan had established a dictatorial fiefdom over three provinces, ignoring the Karzai government with tacit approval from the US. In an HRW report entitled "'We Want to Live as Humans': Repression of Women and Girls in Western Afghanistan," several women described the situation under Khan as virtually similar to living under the Taliban. Local police were stopping girls in the street and forcefully carrying out virginity tests. "Herat is the worst province for women in Afghanistan," said a UN official working with women's groups in Afghanistan.
Women were allowed to study only in segregated schools, were discouraged from working, and were forbidden to ride in cars with foreigners. Those caught riding in cars with an Afghan male who was not their husband were taken off to hospitals where doctors would examine them to determine whether they had recently had sexual intercourse. Doctors said that up to ten girls a day were being tested and many girls were too ashamed even to talk about it.
Ismail Khan has also revived the Taliban's much-feared Department of Vice and Virtue, which encourages young male goons to walk around streets and schools to make sure that segregation is being enforced. "You have the right to monitor whether people obey Islamic rules, whether it be inside school, outside school, or even in the national park," Ismail Khan told a group of schoolboys who were being trained as a vigilante squad in early October 2002. By the end of 2003 the Department of Vice and Virtue was still banning all independent press and censoring television to the point where women appearing in movies were being replaced by a flower on the screen. The department continues to harass local civic leaders and journalists and to ban professional organizations such as women's and lawyers' groups, even a literary society where people read poems to one another.
The violence against women by Taliban members was memorable not just for their violation of genuine Islamic values but for their obsessive attention to sexual and gender detail. The same can be said about Ismail Khan today when he forbids women to wear makeup outside the house even though they must wear the burqa at all times. Men are forbidden to wear neckties or shake hands with local or foreign women.
Acts of torture were, and are, according to HRW, commonplace in Herat -- "beatings...hanging upside-down, whipping, and shocking with electrical wires attached to the toes and thumbs."
Nice to see Rummy's as good a judge of character as ever.