U.S. wooing bitter rivals
as its allies
hatred of Pakistan poses problem for U.S.
War With Terror
Afghanistan - Baqi Khan, the owner of a small fabric shop on the narrow
streets of this city's bustling bazaar, detests Pakistan almost as much as
he hates the Taliban.
brings this war to our country," said Khan, echoing the nearly
unanimous opinion of people who live in this anti-Taliban enclave in
rebel-held Afghanistan, there is great animosity toward Pakistan, the
regional power and main sponsor of the Taliban. And the feeling is mutual:
Pakistan's leaders distrust the Northern Alliance, the coalition of groups
fighting the Taliban.
presents a profound problem for the United States as it tries to embrace
both Pakistan and the Northern Alliance as key allies in its coalition
against Osama bin Laden.
if American bombs were able to dislodge the Taliban from power for
refusing to hand over bin Laden, the result could further destabilize a
country that has been at war for 23 years. The Northern Alliance lacks
representation of Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns.
Pashtuns lead the Taliban and make up a vocal minority in Pakistan, which
is unlikely to stand by and watch the Americans help install an Afghan
government that does not represent them.
interest in Afghanistan runs deep. As a client state, Afghanistan gives
Pakistan control of a key neighboring market as well as Central Asian
trade routes. By assuring that Pashtuns control Afghanistan, Pakistan can
mollify its own restless Pashtun population. Also, Afghanistan's terrorist
camps have proven useful for training militants in Pakistan's conflict
with India in disputed Kashmir.
has supported the Taliban with millions of dollars of military assistance,
logistical support and development projects. Northern Alliance commanders
say that Pakistan also provides the troops entrenched in the Taliban's
is continuing to support the Taliban, sending arms, fuel and replacement
parts," said Col. Nazir Mohammed, an alliance military commander on
the front line a few hours from Feyzabad. "People in Taliban-controlled
areas still think that Pakistan will come to the Taliban's rescue."
Pakistan is the only nation that still recognizes the Taliban, it
distanced itself last week as the United States stepped up efforts to
organize an international coalition against terrorism.
in rebel-controlled Afghanistan, the mantra repeated by nearly everyone is
that Pakistan is only misleading the West about its interests in
Feyzabad's bazaar, where shopkeepers sit cross-legged in small stalls
surrounded by carefully arrayed merchandise, sentiment runs deep that
America, because of its Cold War reliance on Pakistan as its intermediary
to support rebel forces against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,
tends to see Afghanistan through Pakistani eyes.
Taliban was supported by Pakistan, and Pakistan was supported by the
Americans," said Ghafar Haqbin, a moneychanger. "Now the
Americans say the Taliban are their enemies. It's unbelievable."
traders say they have encountered Pakistani soldiers on their frequent
travels across Taliban lines to smuggle goods.
saw Pakistani soldiers myself, on the front line," said Khan, the
fabric seller who keeps his beard long to avoid harassment by the
Taliban's ideological enforcers who require all men to wear long beards.
"They give us trouble."
with typical graciousness of the region, yesterday invited several
visitors to take off their shoes and climb into his wooden stall, built on
a platform about the size of a shipping container and packed with bolts of
cloth. His desk is equipped with a calculator and an ancient telephone
operated by a hand-crank, and it shields great bricks of Afghani currency.
curious crowd gathered outside his stall to gaze at the spectacle of
many Afghanis, Khan said he believes Pakistan encourages Afghan
instability to keep Afghan Pashtuns from asserting traditional claims over
Pashtun lands inside Pakistan. He doesn't blame the Taliban as much as
Pakistan for Afghanistan's problems.
explained that while hatred of Pakistan is nearly universal here, so is
Afghanistan's dependence on Pakistan. The evidence is plain throughout the
market, where bulk commodities such as concrete and fuel arrive on slow
trucks from Tajikistan and a surprising amount of goods are smuggled
across the porous battle lines from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. But
the single most important source of goods is Pakistan, even though it has
no legal border crossings into opposition territory.
half the fabric in Khan's store came from Pakistani mills. He personally
smuggled it in a month ago on 50 donkeys over a 15,000-foot Hindu Kush
mountain route, which follows an old road built with U.S. funds to supply
mujaheddin rebel forces during the Soviet occupation, has become the
preferred corridor to import goods from Pakistan. The road has
deteriorated so that it is now passable only by horse and donkey during
the warmer months.
say perhaps a thousand donkeys a day move along the trail, importing
everything from pharmaceuticals to car parts and detergent to an isolated
a mountainous area, very dangerous," said Mohammed Azim Rahimi, 36,
who arrived in Feyzabad last week with $3,500 worth of Thermos jugs, soap,
batteries, baby formula and dried milk. "Even some donkeys fall down
and die. There are also lots of mines along the road."
said he and other traders had been forced to smuggle the goods at great
risk since the Taliban took control of Kabul in 1996 and it became
impossible to move goods out of the capital.
doesn't particularly like doing business with a country he hates, where he
feels treated as a second-class citizen because he is an Afghan from the
have to do this business because we have no fabric in Afghanistan,"
he said. "We go to Pakistan, and I look at the Afghan refugees. It's
really difficult to look at them. It makes me feel sad."