- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

Afghan troops, including fanatical Arab mercenaries recruited by terror suspect Osama bin Laden, are expected to begin a new offensive in northern Afghanistan within days, a senior official of the ousted government of Burhanuddin Rabbani said yesterday.
"[Bin Laden] recruits them, he trains them, and then takes them to the battlefield," said Abdullah Abdullah, foreign minister of Mr. Rabbanis government, which controls remote portions of central and northeast Afghanistan.
At a meeting of editors and reporters at The Washington Times, Mr. Abdullah said he anticipated an attack "today or tomorrow."
He urged the United States to provide political support and possibly military aid, including shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
"The United States should show that they are supporting groups which are against the Taliban," Mr. Abdullah said.
He also urged the United States to put pressure on Pakistan to curtail its support for the Taliban, especially at Pakistani religious schools, which contribute militant students to fight in neighboring Afghanistan.
The Pakistan Inter-services Intelligence force protects and provides resources to the Taliban, he said. "Pakistan has been able to throw dust into the eyes of the world."
Bin Laden, who enjoys sanctuary in Afghanistan, is wanted by the United States as the suspected mastermind of the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Mr. Abdullah said bin Laden, an exiled Saudi millionaire, is also the "mastermind" behind the spring offensive against Mr. Rabbanis government, providing troops, payment and weapons to the Taliban.
Because bin Laden has been given sanctuary, "fanatics all over the world think they have a safe haven" in Afghanistan, Mr. Abdullah said.
The Rabbani government retains Afghanistans seat at the United Nations.
Otherwise, it enjoys little more than de facto recognition in the United States and elsewhere, Mr. Abdullah said.
He said broad political pressure on Pakistan to halt support for the Taliban is necessary and deserved because of the Afghan oppositions efforts to expel Soviet invaders during the Cold War.
Mr. Rabbanis government receives support from Russia, India and Iran, all of whom fear Taliban efforts to expand their influence throughout Central Asia.
While in Washington, Mr. Abdullah met with Christine Roker, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, and other U.S. officials.
The State Department declined to comment on the meetings.
The Bush administration is conducting a review of policies toward Afghanistan and the region.
Mr. Abdullah said he fears the Taliban offensive will continue unabated without a change in the military balance, which could be brought about by U.S. military assistance.
Last week, the Taliban burned the central Afghan town of Yakowland, raising fears that the Taliban seeks to cut off the flow of humanitarian aid and drought relief to opposition-held enclaves in central and northern Afghanistan.
Pakistani support for the Taliban is expected to be a key issue when Pakistans foreign minister visits Washington next week.

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