The Philadelphia Inquirer
September 30, 2001
Some Afghans support idea
of careful strikes on Taliban
didn't you help us before?" one refugee asked.
War With Terror
Afghanistan - Like many residents of this dusty capital of
opposition-controlled Afghanistan, Ghafar Haqbin would welcome a U.S.
strike against the Taliban, the rigid Islamic movement that has ruled much
of Afghanistan since 1996.
are happy if the United States attacks the Taliban, if they hit military
targets," said Haqbin, 34, a money changer in the city market who
lost his right leg fighting the Taliban five years ago. "We're just
worried about civilian casualties."
he and other residents of Feyzabad are skeptical about the United States'
sudden interest in punishing the Taliban for providing a safe haven to
Osama bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
in New York and Washington. They wonder how long they can count on U.S.
didn't you help us before?" asked Nisar Ahmad Quraishi, 43, a refugee
from Kabul, the capital, which, like 90 percent of Afghanistan, is under
the Taliban's control.
with the Northern Alliance, the coalition of ethnic and political factions
opposed to the Taliban, are waiting with great anticipation for the United
States' expected response against Kabul. The opposition hopes its fragile
movement will pick up strength if the Taliban weakens under a U.S. attack.
think it's the end of the Taliban, if the United States or NATO
attacks," said Saleh Mohammed Registani, the alliance's military
attache in Moscow, speaking from the opposition's embassy in neighboring
it doesn't happen, we continue the struggle."
is no evidence as yet of any U.S. military presence in Feyzabad.
its own, the Northern Alliance has not fared well against the Taliban.
by the former Afghan government that the Taliban drove from power in 1996,
the alliance is still recognized by the United Nations as Afghanistan's
legitimate rulers. But it is effectively a government in exile, its back
pushed to the wall in this remote and desolate corner of Afghanistan.
100,000 people live in Feyzabad, surrounded by a bleak, unforgiving
landscape of dun-colored mountains practically devoid of vegetation after
three years of drought. The small valleys that cut through the harsh
terrain provide a small source of agriculture: plots of wheat, sunflowers
primary cash crop here is poppies, the source of opium and heroin.
signs in English declare the government's opposition to the production of
narcotics, but the announcements appear to be mostly to benefit outsiders.
Inhabitants openly acknowledge that poppy cultivation is a major source of
is a beige city of crooked mud-brick buildings perched along the dramatic
rapids of the Daryayi Kokca river. It has a hospital and a university, but
it appears lost in time - women appear in public wearing white and blue
veiled dresses. Donkeys and bicycles are the most common modes of
23 years of civil war, first against a Soviet-installed communist regime
and then among various factions that squabbled to control this fractious
country, the people here seem weary of conflict.
war has gone on so long," Haqbin said. "We just want
Sept. 11, most international aid agencies pulled foreign workers out of
Feyzabad, fearing turmoil that has sent millions of Afghanis to Pakistan's
borders. But the refugee crisis has not materialized in opposition
humanitarian workers who remain say there is enough food and medicine to
stave off an immediate crisis.
supplies don't get in, we will be affected in the coming weeks," said
Olivier Moeckli, the local representative of the International Committee
of the Red Cross. "It has always been difficult to predict the
outcome of this conflict, and now it's more difficult than ever."
Northern Alliance does not appear to be poised to rush into Kabul. Its air
force is limited to a handful of aging Russian helicopters and a few
bellowing Soviet transports. Its vehicle fleet is an odd assortment of
dented jeeps and pickup trucks.
neighboring Tajikistan, where the opposition receives much of its meager
support from Russian sponsors who regard the alliance as a buffer against
Islamic fundamentalism, the alliance operates out of an embassy where a
rusting Mercedes-Benz has sat so long that a bush is growing where its
rear window used to be.
the alliance's spokesman in Dushanbe, is filled with confidence that the
world will recognize the alliance's virtues and give it support.
it has received no official contact from the U.S. government, Registani
says it would be a natural partnership with the United States.
Americans, they should talk to us," Registani said. "We'll show
them the targets."
hopes a U.S. attack would initially destroy the Taliban's air force,
"then maybe the two sides would be even."
alliance suffered a serious setback on Sept. 9 when its revered military
leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud, was slain by suicide bombers posing as a
camera crew. Alliance leaders suspect the assassination was coordinated by
bin Laden to coincide with the attacks in the United States.
portrait is posted on shops, vehicles and government buildings under
can be him," Registani said, "but we continue."