- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

PESHAWAR, Pakistan A Pakistani involved in making Afghan policy for much of the past 30 years warns of civil war in that country if U.S. forces pull out before a more broadly based government is put in place.
Nasirullah Babar, who is credited with organizing the Afghan resistance after a 1973 palace coup against King Mohammed Zahir Shah by his cousin Sardar Mohammed Daud, says Afghanistan's Pashtun majority will never settle for the limited role it now has in the central administration.
"If the situation remains as it is, I think [the Americans] will be getting sucked more and more into the quagmire," Mr. Babar said in an interview.
"I don't think the Americans will be able to leave unless they want to pull out like the Russians did," he said. "I don't think it will be very easy for the Americans to pull out now."
Pakistan, which itself has a large Pashtun population, has long favored Afghanistan's Pashtun, playing a key role in the formation of the ousted Taliban government, which was drawn mainly from that ethnic group.
With the exception of President Hamid Karzai, most top figures in the new post-Taliban government are drawn from ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and other ethnic groups linked to the Northern Alliance, which for years resisted Taliban rule.
But Mr. Babar said the Pashtuns won't be satisfied until they get a larger role in the central government.
"What [the United States] should have done," after routing the Taliban, he said, was to "have gone around and set up a broad-based government. Unless that happens, there will always be trouble in Afghanistan."
Mr. Babar remained involved with Afghan mujahideen groups in the 1980s and 1990s, when he was twice interior minister in governments led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
When the Taliban entered Kabul in 1996, he said, "we took them up to start negotiations with the Northern Alliance so that something of a broad-based government would come about. "
"That hasn't been the focus now," he said. "The minority has been imposed on the majority."
Even Mr. Karzai, though an ethnic Pashtun, enjoys little support among the Pashtuns and stands danger of being assassinated, Mr. Babar said.
The Pashtuns may "bump him off," he said, although perhaps not soon. The Pashtuns are patient people and "may give him some time," but Mr. Karzai has remained "limited to Kabul" since assuming power at the head of an interim government in December, he said.
"The only time he went out of Kabul" to another part of the country, "he just barely came back with his life, from Kandahar." If he remains confined to Kabul, "how does one find out whether he has any following or any usefulness outside?"
Taliban leader Mullah Omar is now "sitting pretty" somewhere in Afghanistan and may be biding his time to make a comeback, Mr. Babar said. "There is such an abundance of weapons in Afghanistan that no one can run short" of them.
As things stand now, there is "a total vacuum" in the overall Afghan leadership, Mr. Babar said.
He noted that most of the country's key cities and the areas around them are in the hands of local warlords, including Gul Agha in Kandahar, Ismail Khan in Herat and Abdul Rashid Dostumin the north. "So where is the leadership?" he asked.


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