The position war that continued for over a month is over. During the past few days, the Northern Alliance’s troops captured Masar-i-Sharif; Gerat; Talukan; and, according to last information, are at a distance of 25 km from Kabul. The Taliban losing positions everywhere and is falling back to the capital.
This change of the front lines was surprising for many observers. The Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld believes that such a wide advance of the Northern Alliance had caused disagreements between Al-Qaida and the Taliban’ leaders. According to him, these disagreements are about who must head the operations, where the forces must be used, and to where reinforcement must be sent.
It is not known whether or not the campaign is near its logical end or a long war lies ahead. The Taliban have not yet said their last word.
About the same time in New York, Afghanistan’s future is being discussed. Another question is what that future it will be. Today, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov carried held consultations with officials of Muslim countries. The main subject of the conversations was the post-conflict political settlement in Afghanistan. In this context, his meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdula Satar is especially important. Close contacts between the Taliban and Pakistan are well known, as well as Pakistan’s special position on this question.
Russia and Pakistan have similar positions on fundamental issues connected with Afghanistan’s future arrangement. At the meeting, certain requirements were worked out that future power bodies of Afghan state system should answer. There the are following principles among them. First, in Afganistan, there must be a coalition government formed on a broad ethnic and political base. Second, the government must be supported by the international community. Third, it must be friendly toward neighboring countries. Fourth, the future authorities must occupy themselves with the restoration of peaceful life in Afghanistan.
Pakistani leader Perves Musharaf is now in a complicated situation. On one hand, he must support the anti-terrorist coalition while expecting from the US the cancellation of all sanctions against Pakistan and, if possible, the write off of the state debt. On the other hand, he cannot neglect the opinions of the people of his country. After coming to power as a result of a military coup, he should understand how easily he could loose everything. Now, he is supported by law enforcers, though the situation could change. This was why the Northern Alliance’s success complicated Islamabad's situation. As is well known, Pakistan is against Kabul’s occupation by the Northern Alliance, explaining that old scores would be settled between ethnic groups that could cause a continuation of the civil war.
Islamabad insists on Pashtoon representatives’ leading position in future political settlement in Afghanistan, who make about 60 percent of the Afghan population. For the time being, the US supports this position of Pakistan on this question, while considering the occupation of Kabul as untimely.
In such circumstance,the creation of a coalition between Pashtoon leaders is very important, which could resist the increasing military and political influence of the Northern Alliance. The Southern Alliance, which is being formed on the base of Pashtoon tribes and is supported by ex-Afghan king Zahir Shah, could be such a counterbalance.
Taking into account the situation, the occupation of Kabul becomes a kind of political prize, so not one of the sides, whether it is the Northern Alliance or the Pashtoon coalition, will hardly want to give up it up.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2001/11/12/33688.html