- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Afghan warlords, traitors, guerrilla commanders, politicians and a former monarch expect that U.S.-led bombardments will help them seize the Afghan capital, Kabul, sparking concern that Afghanistan may descend into anarchy.
The complex mix of competing U.S.-backed tribes, human rights violators and an elderly ex-king indicates that if Washington topples the ruling Taliban militia, vicious rivalry among the victors may permit Afghanistan to become a terrorist haven in the future.
Several years ago, four minority tribes Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras and Turkmen joined with some majority Pashtuns and others to form an armed, loose Northern Alliance against the Taliban.
Today, scattered north of Kabul, the Northern Alliance hopes high-tech U.S. attacks will soften Taliban defenses. The alliance, which occupies less than 10 percent of the country, wants to join an international ground assault and reach Kabul.
The United States envisions rebuilding a post-Taliban Afghanistan with the United Nations playing a major role. Despite earlier opposition to nation-building, President Bush said this week the world organization should lead an effort to ensure that Afghanistan doesn't fall into chaos and civil war once the U.S. military has left.
At a news conference Thursday, Mr. Bush said it would be "a useful function for the United Nations to take over the so-called nation-building I would call it the stabilization of a future government after our military mission is complete."
"We'll participate," he said. "Other countries will participate."
The black-turbaned Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salaam Zaeef, has denounced the Northern Alliance as "a handful of American slaves." Other Afghans perceive the opposition group as a puppet of Russia, Iran, Tajikistan and India, because those nations have aided it against the Taliban.
Pakistan joined the condemnation because the alliance failed to bring peace to Afghanistan after it achieved victory against Kabul's Moscow-backed Marxist regime. It also upsets an ancient Afghan tradition, which deems that only the majority Pashtun tribe can rule the medieval, feudal nation.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup two years ago, supported the U.S.-led assaults but said this week: "Certainly, the Northern Alliance must be kept in check so that we do not return to the period of anarchy."
The miffed alliance responded by warning Pakistan not to interfere in Afghanistan's internal affairs, especially because Pakistan helped to create the Taliban from scratch in the early 1990s.
The alliance has drawn criticism because it includes people accused of murder, rape and other atrocities during its fight for power in the late 1980s and throughout its bloody 1992-1996 rule in Kabul before the Taliban forced them to retreat to the north.
For example, one of the alliance's main components is led by Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, who gained a ruthless reputation when he fought for the Soviet Union during its 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan.
Gen. Dostum has rejected as "propaganda" that his Uzbeks tortured U.S.-backed, anti-communist guerrillas during the 1980s, raped women, executed civilians and committed other crimes.
The Northern Alliance comprises several leaders, including Rasoul Sayaf, a Pashtun whose militia reportedly tortured women as sex slaves in the mid-1990s.
Many Afghans in Kabul and elsewhere remember the alliance's grim reputation and dread its possible return to power, even in a coalition. The alliance currently boasts 10,000 to 15,000 troops, who are mostly Tajik and Uzbek.
Washington and other foreign powers, meanwhile, also are propping up Afghanistan's former king, born in 1914, as a Pashtun who could link the Northern Alliance and others in a broader ethnic grouping, paving the way for a representative regime.
But many of the U.S.-backed guerrillas who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and who now hope to influence Kabul's post-Taliban politics were disappointed with King Zahir Shah.
In the late 1980s, fabled Tajik rebel leader Ahmad Shah Masood, who later became Northern Alliance defense minister when they achieved power, said of the ex-king: "During his rule in Afghanistan, when the normal situation prevailed and the country was calm, Zahir Shah did not demonstrate any competence in carrying out his duties."
Mr. Masood was assassinated reportedly by Saudi-born Islamic militant Osama bin Laden's men just before aerial suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 that killed more than 5,000 people.

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