- The Washington Times - Monday, November 12, 2001

CHARIKAR, Afghanistan Leaders of the Northern Alliance said yesterday they would fight "up to the gates" of the Afghan capital but that they would stop short of entering Kabul, as demanded by Presidents Bush and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.
However, the Afghan rebel leaders raised the possibility of entering Kabul if law and order broke down in the city or if Pakistani troops tried to enter it.
They also harshly criticized the Pakistani military leader for saying at a Saturday press conference with Mr. Bush that the rebels had destroyed the city in the early 1990s. Pakistan itself was to blame, they said.
U.S. officials agreed in television interviews yesterday that the rebel forces, heartened by the capture Friday of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, understood the importance of remaining out of Kabul until a post-Taliban governing structure was determined.
According to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, there is little the United States can do to stop the rebel forces if they decide to go forward.
"They're going to attack and take Kabul when they feel like it," he said.
Northern Alliance forces have routed Taliban troops across northern Afghanistan since Friday and are eager to advance from their lines 25 miles north of Kabul, where the Taliban defenders have been weakened by weeks of American-led bombing.
But National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said on CNN's "Late Edition" that the Alliance realizes the next government in Kabul "is going to have to be representative of all the different elements of Afghan society."
Most Alliance leaders represent northern-based ethnic minorities who have little in common with the Pashtuns who dominate the southern areas around Kabul.
The Alliance's foreign minister, known simply as Abdullah, acknowledged the problem in a telephone interview yesterday from the town of Khwaja Dahauddin, near the Tajikistan border.
"We don't plan to enter Kabul, and we hadn't planned to. There are political reasons for that, and those are good reasons," he said.
Mohammed Yunus Qanooni, the Northern Alliance's interior minister, said in Charikar near the front line north of Kabul that "we will advance to the gates [of the capital] and then stop."
He said, however, that Alliance forces might have to go into the city if the Taliban fled and caused a breakdown in law and order, or if there were "any effort by Pakistan to send forces into the city."
Mr. Qanooni was addressing about 150 members of a newly organized police force whose job, he said, would be to secure and to maintain law and order in newly captured areas as the military forces advance on Kabul.
"Your mission does not amount to our installing a government in Kabul. If you enter the city, it will only be to protect the lives and property of ordinary people," he told the recruits.
The Alliance is deeply distrustful of Pakistan, which armed and backed the Taliban and was its primary supporter until it changed sides after the September 11 terror attacks on the United States.
Both Mr. Abdullah and Mr. Qanooni berated Gen. Musharraf for his remarks in New York, where he held the Alliance responsible for fighting that destroyed Kabul in 1992 and 1993.
"It is well known that the problems we had last time were caused by elements who were working for Pakistan," said Mr. Abdullah, who charged that the United States was being "misled" by the Pakistan government.
Several of the militias that make up the Northern Alliance controlled Kabul in the early 1990s before coming under heavy shelling from dissident warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was backed by Pakistan.
When the Alliance government tried to discipline two militia leaders who were mistreating citizens, the two joined forces with Mr. Hekmatyar, throwing almost half of Kabul into rebel hands and leading to a period of brutal infighting.
One of the two was Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek militia leader whose forces spearheaded the capture on Friday of Mazar-e-Sharif.
In Washington, Mr. Rumsfeld said on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation" that he believed the Alliance attack on the capital would come "when they feel like it, and when they think they're capable of doing it, and when they think they're capable of feeding the people, and when they think that they're capable of defeating the Taliban and getting them out of there."
Mr. Rumsfeld would not say whether the United States would cut off air support to the Alliance which continued north of the capital yesterday if the rebels entered Kabul.
"What we would do about air cover would be a complicated set of issues," he said. "And we certainly have some things that we have to do or not do that can help affect it.
"But the goal is, as soon as humanly possible in the right way, to get the al Qaeda and the Taliban the dickens out of Kabul and the rest of the country," he added.
Mr. Rumsfeld suggested that the Bush administration would prefer that Kabul be taken by the southern tribes of Afghanistan, including the Pashtuns, instead of the Northern Alliance, which is dominated by Uzbeks and Tajiks.
"Our goal is to get the tribes in the south to oppose the Taliban," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
"They have been relatively quiet thus far. We need them to oppose the Taliban. Therefore, we need them to recognize that they're going to have a voice in the post-Taliban government."
Sayyid Hussain Anwari, a commander with the forces arrayed north of Kabul, said that nothing in Mr. Bush's remarks on Saturday would affect military operations that were already planned.
"We are in favor of a demilitarized city of Kabul, and we want United Nations supervision of an assembly which will make decisions regarding the country's future," he said.
Bill Sammon in Washington contributed to this report.

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