Afghan young men flee military service against alliesgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 25 2001 Afghanistan Young men flee military service against allies FROM CATHERINE PHILP IN QUETTA, PAKISTAN WHEN two student friends turned up in Mohammad’s mountain village last week with shaven heads and no possessions, he knew it was time to get out of Afghanistan. His friends, minority Tajiks like him, had fled from Kabul after Taleban soldiers came to the university and tried to force them into military service against an American attack. Refugees such as Mohammad arriving in Pakistan are bringing reports of Taleban attempts to conscript young men from persecuted minorities to fight in a “holy war”.
The Taleban defence minister claimed yesterday to have mobilised an additional 300,000 troops, most of them volunteers ready to die defending the regime. Reports from Afghanistan, however, paint a picture of a regime beginning to crumble as its commmanders desert.
Thousands of Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and other minorities are fleeing their homes in central Afghanistan as Taleban fighters visit their villages to round up conscripts. “Every family is being asked to hand over one young man,” Mohammad said. “I left before they could come for me.”
Nobody here believes the Taleban’s estimate of their fighting force. Analysts say that before the present crisis, their army numbered fewer than 50,000. Even with conscription, it could not have swelled above 70,000, far less if reports of large-scale defections are true. Refugees from Herat say that only a quarter of Taleban officials and fighters remain.
Refugees passing through the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar have found it empty as commanders flee to the hills with their families. The remaining Taleban are going to desperate measures to convince people that they are still in charge. Shopkeepers have been forced to remain open to project an aura of normality.
Anti-Taleban leaders in Quetta say that internal opposition to the Taleban is growing as the prospect of military strikes increases. One figure the people could rally around is Afghanistan’s exiled King, Mohammed Zahir Shah, who issued a radio appeal last week calling on Afghans to rise up and “rescue themselves”. He has called for the international community to help to restore Afghanistan’s traditional tribal council in place of the Taleban. “Everyone heard it,” Mr Ullah said. “They believe that if Zahir Shah comes, we will be saved.” People are also pinning their hopes on Ismail Khan,the local opposition commander, who controls a patch of Northern Alliance territory south of the city. “People are very excited and optimistic. They believe that if there is an American attack, Ismail Khan will come back and take control of the city.”
Emboldened by the prospect of American backing, opposition force have begun a big offensive against the Taleban in northern Afghanistan. Artillery and rocket fire thundered across Balkh Province yesterday as Taleban and Northern Alliance forces fought for a strategic road linking central Afghanistan with Uzbekistan.
A further setback to the Taleban’s hold on power came with the withdrawal this weekend of Pakistani diplomats from Kabul. “Without Pakistani support, the Taleban will crumble within days,” Hamid Karzai, the tribal council’s leader in exile, said at his home in Quetta. “Look at all the people, they wouldn’t be running away if they supported the Taleban.”
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), September 24, 2001
Let's hope he's right.
-- Uncle Fred (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 25, 2001.