- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan Traumatized by war and the harsh Taliban rule, residents here hope power-sharing talks in Germany will bring peace, but they have little confidence in any of the faction leaders vying to run a new government.
Talks outside Bonn on a provisional administration to run the country until permanent government structures are established reached a tentative accord early this morning. But the debate over the long-term future of the country is certain to be more involved and could exacerbate many of the problems that have perpetuated 23 years of war.
"The educated people want technocrats to be in government. We want people who can bring an education system to the schools, end the international sanctions on banking, deliver health care," an Afghan banker explained while sifting through piles of the country's currency, the Afghani.
"The other people, the uneducated ones, they only care about what tribe, what place, and who is connected to who. That is not the way for Afghanistan."
The challenge is to find a leader who can reconcile conflicting tribal and ethnic interests and become a symbol of trust and unity in Afghanistan. Among residents in the capital, there is no consensus as to who should emerge as such a leader.
People are extremely cynical about politicians, guerrilla military commanders and others who were prominent during the dozen years since Soviet forces left in 1979. One of the few who remains untainted by the years of unrest is the former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah.
Before he was deposed in 1974, King Zahir had planned to implement a new constitution that called for democratic elections, a parliament and wider civil rights.
Forced into exile in Rome, he showed little interest in returning to Afghanistan before the U.S.-led campaign to depose the Taliban. Now he is seen as an elder statesman who could serve as a figurehead for an interim government.
"Ask any Afghan and they will tell you that we all want Zahir Shah," said Ali, selling clothing from a pushcart on a busy sidewalk.
"The number two man, or the number three man, or all the other men in the government, I don't know who it should be. It can be anyone as long as they want peace, not war. No one wants more fighting."
Few Afghans understand the fast-changing negotiations going on in Germany, but they are almost unanimously opposed to a return of the mujahideen, the force that drove out the Soviets only to be ousted themselves by the Taliban.
Now known as the Northern Alliance, the loose coalition of anti-Taliban military commanders is made up mostly from minority tribes. Its leader Burhanuddin Rabbani is still recognized by the United Nations as the president of Afghanistan, but his 1992-96 regime was marred by widespread fighting in Kabul that killed tens of thousands of people.
"I do not like the Northern Alliance because they are always fighting and people have been dying because of them," said Abdul Qadar, a senior 'kuch,' or nomad, who spent his youth wandering mountains and deserts before taking up arms against the Soviets.
Mr. Rabbani, who has participated in the German negotiations via satellite telephone from Kabul, has been upstaged in the talks by a fellow Northern Alliance leader.
Delegation leader Younus Qanooni, the alliance's 44-year-old interior minister, has emerged as the key figure in the negotiations. A Tajik who has not been popularly associated with the Northern Alliance's military campaign, he will likely play a prominent role in an interim government.

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