- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

Rebel leader Abdul Haq's life reflected the strains and contradictions the United States faces in ousting the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
His death yesterday, apparently at the hands of Taliban fighters after a skirmish in southern Afghanistan, promises to make the Bush administration's task that much harder.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Haq's death, if true, was "regrettable," but not a fatal setback to efforts to organize a post-Taliban government.
"It would be a loss for those who believe in a broad-based government for Afghanistan," he said, but added, "there are others working on this."
The burly, 43-year-old Mr. Haq, who made his reputation and lost his right foot in the brutal guerrilla campaign against a Soviet occupying army in the 1980s, had emerged as a pivotal figure in the political and military maneuvering now under way against the Taliban.
Like most of the senior leadership of the Taliban, Mr. Haq was an ethnic Pashtun the largest single ethnic group in Afghanistan. He and another Pashtun commander, Hamid Karzai, entered Afghanistan from their base in Peshawar, Pakistan, Oct. 21 with the express purpose of spurring opposition to the Taliban.
The initiative was meant to complement and counter a U.S.-backed challenge to the Taliban from the Northern Alliance, an umbrella group of Afghan opposition forces dominated by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks battling Taliban forces in the north.
Despite his military exploits, Mr. Haq himself expressed frustration recently with the difficulties of uniting Afghanistan's fractious opposition groups to fight the Taliban.
"War is easy. If you don't like someone, you kill them," he said in a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation. "This is more difficult. If you disagree with someone, you have to talk to them and try to find a compromise."
The contradictions in his own life reflected the complex crosscurrents facing U.S. officials in the Afghanistan campaign.
He hated the Taliban's strict rule, but preferred to reach out to moderates within the regime, rather than work with the Northern Alliance. Despite the kind words U.S. officials offered yesterday, Mr. Haq also believed the U.S. air strikes against the Taliban were a mistake.
"We have been trying to create a revolt within the Taliban, but the U.S. just haven't given us the chance," he said in an interview earlier this month with Anatol Lieven, an analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Mr. Haq devoted more than a decade of his life to fighting the Soviet-controlled regime in Kabul, but left Afghanistan for much of the 1990s to pursue a business career in the Persian Gulf, complaining of the political chaos and corruption at home.
Despite his fluent English, his cultivation of Western journalists, and a reputation as a moderate among Afghanistan's warring factions, Mr. Haq fought during the Soviet resistance under Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, considered the most anti-American of the rebel groups. Mr. Hekmatyar, now in exile in Iran, has made offers of support to the Taliban.
Mr. Haq's passion for the anti-Taliban cause was strengthened when his wife and 11-year-old son were killed, presumably by Taliban agents, in 1999.
But again reflecting the crosscurrents of Afghan tribal politics, two of Mr. Haq's brothers assumed prominent roles in the Taliban's increasingly repressive government.
Even Mr. Haq's death did not stop the backbiting that has long plagued the Pashtun opposition groups, in sharp contrast to the disciplined Taliban leadership.
Another senior opposition figure, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters in Peshawar that Mr. Haq helped bring on his own death.
"He wanted to impress his American friends, and look what happened to him," he said derisively. "The Taliban probably had the help of the local tribes in capturing him."

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