- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

BONN Afghanistan's main ethnic and political factions, after five days of hard bargaining here under heavy international pressure, yesterday agreed to put in place an interim administration that will rule for four months and clear the way for a permanent post-Taliban government in Kabul.
It will be headed by an ethnic Pashtun Hamid Karzai, who has wrested control of several southern areas from the dwindling Taliban.
Mohammed Zahir Shah, the aging ex-king who lives in exile in Rome, is then expected to convene a tribal gathering that will quickly select a Supreme Council and arrange for elections within two years.
The south-based Pashtuns are Afghanistan's single largest ethnic group, but have a long history of tension with the country's other tribes and ethnic groups, including those who dominate the rival Northern Alliance.
Details of time periods and numbers may be modified before the draft deal gets signed in what is expected to be an impressive ceremony by the host German government.
The multiethnic administration is expected to include a roughly equal number of people from the Northern Alliance and from the ex-king's list, with a possible sharing of ministries.
The size of the interim administration is likely to be 26 to run nearly the same number of ministries in place before the fundamentalist Taliban regime seized power in 1996.
The ousted Northern Alliance president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, now reinstalled in Kabul, found himself isolated in the Bonn talks, largely through overplaying his hand, analysts said.
Western nations, warning that billions of dollars of aid would be suspended, played key roles in a series of tough phone calls to Mr. Rabbani Friday after a desperate attempt by the Northern Alliance commander to stall the talks and have them reconvened in Kabul.
James Dobbins, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, confirmed that the breakthrough came after Mr. Rabbani had "heard from members of his own alliance and from several governments which had been friendly to him."
Mr. Rabbani is unlikely to serve in the new administration, though his foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, and his security chief, Younus Qanooni, are expected to retain their roles in the new administration.
Mr. Abdullah had signaled Mr. Rabbani's acquiescence yesterday with a statement that those present controlling Kabul were "ready to transfer power."
The talks had originally been planned to move directly to a transitional government of 20 members, along with an interim parliament of up to 200 seats, but the latter program proved too ambitious.
Several delegates said the new Afghan administration should be made up primarily of technocrats able to tackle the handling of massive influxes of aid and returning refugees.
"They should be qualified for the job," said Hamid Sidig, a spokesman for the ex-king's Rome-based delegation.
"You cannot put a [military] commander in as a minister of finance."
It is now possible, the sources said, that an American military aircraft will fly members of the new interim administration to Kabul from Bonn later this week, but only if the capital's security is first secured.
That involves the deployment of a U.N.-sanctioned multinational security force.
Its size and composition are expected to be hammered out in talks today and tomorrow, according to sources inside the talks.
"I am so happy," said Mohammed Natiqi, one of the 11 Northern Alliance delegates.
"We needed peace and a U.N. force, and now we are getting it. Now we will not have more people die by war and by starvation."
Yet Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday on CNN that the United States would rather not participate in a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.
"With respect to a peacekeeping force people on the ground are the ones that you would want to provide the peacekeeping first, if they are able to do it," he said.
"Nation building does not have a brilliant record across the globe."
German diplomats dismissed speculation that the host nation was preparing a big signing ceremony for today but conceded that if a deal were reached, the Petersberg Hotel would host a celebratory event.
"We are on the home stretch," one envoy said.
Mr. Qanooni, the alliance delegation leader and part of a new generation of Afghan politicians desperate for peace and democracy after 23 years of conflict, also signaled hope: "This is a very golden opportunity which must be seized," he said.

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