Tuesday, November 20, 2001

NEW YORK Domestic and foreign interests have begun to battle over the future government of Afghanistan, two weeks after the Northern Alliance swept the Taliban regime from Kabul.
U.N. officials have been meeting for three days with senior Northern Alliance representatives with hopes to draw the force that liberated the capital into discussions that will lead to a broad-based coalition government.
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Gennadi Gatilov, said last night that U.N. officials hoped to convene a meeting Saturday in Berlin to work on a transitional government for Afghanistan, although not all parties had committed to be present at the meeting.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan, met with members of the Security Council yesterday and was expected to announce a location and date for the meeting as early as this morning. The United States and the United Nations have insisted on a “neutral site” for the meeting, something Northern Alliance officials have resisted.
The U.N. deputy envoy to Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, is now in Kabul “awaiting a response from the United Front to [Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s] invitation for an all-Afghan conference,” said U.N. spokesman Manoel Almeida e Silva.
Meanwhile, smaller factions appear to have taken control of Taliban-held territory in the western and southern areas of the country, adding to the fear that without a political framework, Afghanistan could split into fiefdoms or ethnic enclaves.
Mr. Brahimi is trying to coordinate three separate tracks to rebuild Afghanistan: emergency humanitarian assistance, a 5- to 8-year recovery and reconstruction phase and the building of a lasting political framework.
More than 100 representatives are expected at such a meeting, which Washington and other governments had hoped would occur before the predominantly ethnic Uzbek and Tajik Northern Alliance claimed the capital.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said yesterday the meeting could be held “later this week,” but he could not provide specifics.
Afghanistan is a mixing bowl of religious, ethnic and even national elements. Historically, these alliances shifted easily depending on which group was in power, or what foreign armies were at the borders.
U.N. officials are concerned that if the Northern Alliance refuses to work with other ethnic groups such as the Hazara, Pashtuns and Dari, Afghanistan will be doomed to repeat its recent, bloody history.
Another issue that will face Mr. Brahimi’s team is whether to invite the Taliban to participate in the proposed broad-based government.
U.S. officials have refrained from using phrases like “moderate Taliban” to describe future participants in the government. Still, they note that Pashtuns, the ethnic group from which the Taliban have traditionally drawn support, account for 40 percent of the Afghan population and must have representation.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said no one from the current Taliban leadership will be welcome in the new Afghanistan. But he acknowledged that people within the movement “who have not been active” may have a place at the table.
“Unless you’re planning to ethnically cleanse them or ship them off to other countries they will have to be accommodated in what we hope will be a new arrangement that represents all the people of Afghanistan,” Mr. Powell said in a television appearance last month.

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