- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

The Northern Alliance, the remnants of the Soviet-era mujahideen militia still fighting Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, is offering the United States 30,000 battle-hardened warriors to help locate the man blamed for last week's terrorist attacks.
"The international community has no chance of hunting down Osama bin Laden without us," said Haron Amin, the alliance representative in Washington.
"We know the country. We are on the ground. We have the intelligence. We have infiltrated the Taliban … and we are offering 30,000 seasoned fighters for this international effort."
The alliance controls only 5 to 20 percent of Afghanistan, depending on who is counting, and none of the main cities. However, it is recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan by the United Nations.
Mr. Amin said the alliance has been "in contact" with U.S. government officials regarding the offer, but would not identify those officials.
He said his militia, based in the Panjshir Valley northeast of Kabul, is asking that the United States supply it with "military equipment, communications equipment and other facilities" for its war against the Taliban regime.
An American official acknowledged that the United States was "in intermittent contact" with the alliance. "I would not be surprised if consideration is being given to ways for them to help, but there are no specific contacts right now that I am aware of."
Mr. Amin said it is in American interests to use the alliance.
"The Taliban are involved with drug trafficking, human-rights violations and it harbors major terrorists. The international community owes it to itself to help us get rid of them. We welcome the international community's effort and we will do everything we can to contribute to the hunting down of Osama bin Laden," he said.
While sympathetic to the alliance, many experts on Afghanistan and terrorism fear they will be of little use in the attempt to bring prime terror suspect bin Laden to justice.
"What Northern Alliance? They have been in a terrible state since before Masood's death," said Yossef Bodansky, the author of "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America."
"It is raiding areas and withdrawing to no-man's land that no one cares about."
The alliance is led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose Jamiat-i-Islami mujahideen, which espouses a moderate brand of Islam, was one of at least seven major rebel groups that fought for 10 years before ending the Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan in 1989. When the Soviets left, the moderates were forced to fight the extremist "muj" for control of the country.
Commanded by military chief Ahmed Shah Masood, a charismatic warrior nicknamed the "Lion of Panjshir," the group took nominal charge of Afghanistan in 1992. But Pakistan, unable to control or trust the group, created and then armed the Taliban militia, which in 1996 drove Mr. Masood and his warriors into the Panjshir Valley where they have resisted Taliban attacks ever since.
Because of the country's fratricidal ethnic and religious divisions, even supporters of the Rabbani government made up mostly of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks question whether it could ever govern Afghanistan, which is mostly Pashtun, as is the Taliban.
"They could be the nucleus of a broader government. Some Taliban commanders would switch loyalties if it looked like the Taliban were out. It could snowball," said Jim Phillips of the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Mr. Amin said it was no coincidence that Mr. Masood, who survived more than two decades of war, was assassinated just days before the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
Two Arabs, posing a journalists, blew themselves up while interviewing Mr. Masood on Sept. 9, fatally wounding him. He was buried on Sunday. It is widely believed that the suicide attack on Mr. Masood was the work of bin Laden.
Mr. Amin said the attacks on the United States and the assassination "were directly linked" and there is no question that the attack on Mr. Masood was the work of bin Laden.
He speculated that the attack may have been a signal for the bombers to hijack the airplanes, or it may have been designed to make the Taliban more beholden to bin Laden at a time when it would come under enormous international pressure to give up its terrorist "guest."
"The natural terrain of the Hindu Kush and Masood were the only obstacles that stood in the way of the Taliban exporting their 'jihad' into Central Asia," Mr. Amin said. As if on cue, the Taliban launched a new attack on the Masood stronghold on Tuesday, but was repelled, according to alliance reports from the region.
Earlier this week, the alliance's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, warned that the bin Laden terror network was growing, with hundreds, possibly thousands of militants joining his holy war every year.
"It is five, six years since Osama is there [in Afghanistan], and we have been fighting against him, and they are getting stronger day by day. Terrorists from all over the world have joined them," said Mr. Abdullah.

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