- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 13, 2001

PESHAWAR, Pakistan Two former Afghan generals have secretly entered Afghanistan in recent days as part of a campaign by supporters of former King Zahir Shah to foment a revolt against the ruling Taliban regime by ethnic Pashtun tribal chiefs.
About 10 days ago, former Afghan Gen. Abdul Wardak left from this western Pakistani border city with about 20 armed men for a province west of the capital city of Kabul that bears his tribal name, Wardak.
A second former Afghan general, Shah Nawaz Tani, also crossed from Pakistan into the southeastern province of Paktia.
Their missions are part of a larger effort to form the elusive "southern alliance" that both the United States and Pakistan are hoping can drive the Taliban from power and ease the political transition for a successor government.
Word of both trips, confirmed by sources close to the effort, came as armies of the opposition Northern Alliance drove toward Kabul and claimed to control the northern half of the country.
The recent battlefield successes of the alliance, dominated by non-Pashtun ethnic groups, present a dilemma for the U.S.-led effort to oust the Taliban and capture Saudi financier Osama bin Laden, who is believed responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Chaotic rule by some leading officials of the Northern Alliance in the early 1990s helped plunge Afghanistan into a civil war that destroyed Kabul a scenario that President Bush is attempting to prevent by urging the alliance to delay any occupation of the capital.
Last month, an initial effort to encourage Pashtun tribal chiefs to revolt failed when Abdul Haq, a Pashtun military commander who fought the Soviet occupying army during the 1980s, was captured and summarily executed by the Taliban while in Afghanistan on a similar mission.
Gen. Tani served as chief of the Afghan army following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 and Gen. Wardak was deputy army chief.
Both were prominent in the government that the Soviets left behind following their withdrawal in 1989.
Hamid Karzai, another southern-based Taliban opponent who began a similar campaign shortly after Abdul Haq was killed, also served as a deputy in the post-Soviet government.
Mr. Karzai is now believed to be safe in an undisclosed location west of Kandahar.
Mr. Karzai and Gens. Wardak and Tani were described by Pakistani sources as part of an effort by supporters of the former king to call a traditional tribal council that would set up an interim government for a post-Taliban Afghanistan.
"Each is responsible to educate and convince their tribes to support Zahir Shah," said one source close to the campaign. The former king "is the last and only option. If he passes away, Afghanistan will disintegrate."
When support from enough of Afghanistan's 120 Pashtun tribes and sub-tribes is obtained, the former king would come to Peshawar from his home outside Rome and call the tribal council, known as a "loya jirga," the source said.
The United States, Pakistan and Britain have supported the effort, repeatedly warning that any post-Taliban government must reflect the complex ethnic makeup of Afghanistan.
The Pakistani government is also working frantically behind the scenes to support such an effort, said one Pakistani official.
The Northern Alliance, which last night had moved its forces to the edge of Kabul, is furious over Pakistan's longtime support of the Taliban prior to the September 11 attacks.
The effort is further complicated by anger of Afghanistan's Pashtuns toward the Northern Alliance for accepting aid from its old enemy, Russia, to battle the Taliban.
The Pashtuns also dislike the king, who was exiled in a 1973 coup, because he never condemned the Soviet invasion.


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