The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 16, 2001
Alliance strives for
balance in Kabul presence
War With Terror
Afghanistan - Technicians yesterday dusted off equipment at the studios of
Afghan Television, hopeful that the national broadcaster would be
operating this weekend for the first time in more than five years.
happy to put something on the air for people," said Safi Abdulghani,
an engineer who had been unemployed since the hard-line Taliban came to
power in 1996 and banned photography, movies, music, home computers and
television as anathema to Islam.
the Taliban's ouster from Kabul on Monday by opposition Northern Alliance
forces, the veil is slowly lifting from Afghan society. Men are playing
soccer in the stadium where the Taliban conducted public executions. Women
are free to cover their faces, or bare them. And the Northern Alliance is
moving quickly to consolidate power, even as it says it is not
establishing itself as a government.
Kabul International Airport, repairs have begun on the runway heavily
damaged by the U.S. air strikes that were critical to ousting the Taliban.
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, employees pasted up a photograph of Ahmed
Shah Massoud, the revered Northern Alliance military leader who was
assassinated two months ago, and a portrait of Burhanuddin Rabbani,
president of the Northern Alliance and head of the government the Taliban
pushed out of Kabul in 1996.
the Interior Ministry, Yunis Qanooni settled himself back in the office he
was forced to flee five years ago.
haven't prepared the ministries for business yet," Qanooni said
yesterday, a coffee table bearing six telephones at his elbow. "When
we entered Kabul, we didn't come to set up a government - we just entered
Kabul to establish security."
Northern Alliance's plans for Kabul are extremely sensitive because -
recognizing its unpopularity for the factional infighting that left 50,000
Kabul residents dead when it held power in the early 1990s - it had
promised to stop short of Kabul during its offensive.
the Taliban retreat was so quick and so complete - Kabul was abandoned in
just a few hours early Tuesday - it led to a power vacuum that looters and
armed groups quickly exploited. So the army and Qanooni's gray-uniformed
police moved in rapidly Tuesday morning to reestablish order.
didn't have a plan to enter into Kabul," Qanooni said. "Kabul
was unguarded, so we came in."
has put the Northern Alliance, mostly made up of ethnic minorities, in a
difficult position to allay fears that it has seized power and intends to
exclude the dominant Pashtun ethnic group. Qanooni yesterday denied that
the alliance was settling into the seat of power. He said Rabbani would
delay any return to Kabul - "and if he comes, he won't come in as
president but as a faction leader."
officials emphasize their support for plans to establish a broad-based
government, assisted by the United Nations.
U.N. Security Council resolution passed Wednesday allows deployment of
troops of the U.S.-led coalition to help maintain order. The council wants
the top U.N. envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, to convene an urgent
meeting of Afghan leaders on a transitional administration.
events on the ground are moving almost too fast to allow the international
community to respond.
reports arrived yesterday of the Taliban's increasing disarray, the
Northern Alliance troops remained stationary outside Kabul, negotiating
with local Pashtun leaders about joining forces. Most of those leaders,
whose followers are armed, are demanding that the alliance allow an
international force to keep order until Afghan representatives can create
a government acceptable to most.
Northern Alliance says it would welcome a U.N. role in setting up a new
government; it has been less clear about welcoming foreign troops.
said his colleagues were committed to establishing a loya jirga, or
council of ethnic leaders, to select the next head of state. He also said
Afghanistan's former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, must play a role in the
alliance's effort to characterize its own role in Kabul this week
sometimes has required a fair amount of doublespeak.
maintains the pose that its military forces do not occupy the city.
Qanooni calls the 3,000 troops guarding Kabul "security forces"
under his civilian control, rather than the army's. And he maintains that
many of the soldiers in Kabul simply came to visit family and friends
after five long years sequestered in the north. And while the Northern
Alliance insists it is not establishing a government, the move to open
several ministries indicates the occupation forces are thinking about more
than just maintaining law and order.
Qanooni, who previously had expressed no objection to being called
"Mr. Minister," now hastily responds, "I'm not the
minister, I'm the chief of security."
Kabul is relatively peaceful now, the situation remains unsettled for many
residents because there is no single long-range plan to bring peace to
don't know what to think of the Northern Alliance," said Abdul Wali,
an office worker. "Who will guarantee peace tomorrow? Who will
guarantee peace this afternoon?"
such skeptics, there is no denying that the entry into Kabul was
remarkably well-organized, demonstrating much more planning ability than
the alliance's threadbare government in exile had exhibited.
is proud of the job the alliance has done at maintaining order - and
pleasantly surprised at the absence of overt animosity.
was very worried about security," he said. "After five years,
you expect to find a lot of enemies, a lot of hostility, a lot of ethnic
tension between Pashtuns, Uzbeks and Tajiks."
said the Northern Alliance troops who are not under the Interior
Ministry's control will soon leave the city for barracks set up on the
city's outskirts. He said the move would fulfill the alliance's pledge to
not militarize Kabul.
have to make a new decision about the army people in the city," he
said, before meeting yesterday with about 30 high-ranking army commanders
to discuss the issue. "The army will leave all the city. There will
be special places for them around the city, but not right in the