Moscow stance over Taleban splits coalition, enrages Pakistan : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Moscow stance over Taleban splits coalition FROM VANORA BENNETT IN MOSCOW, ROLAND WATSON IN WASHINGTON AND ZAHID HUSSAIN IN ISLAMABAD MOSCOW was at odds with Washington last night over the make-up of a post-Taleban government, threatening a split in President Bush’s war coalition that would seriously hamper the military and diplomatic campaigns in Afghanistan. President Putin of Russia said the rebel Northern Alliance was the country’s “legitimate government” and that moderate Taleban figures should be denied any slice of the postwar spoils. His comments, made in Central Asia, took Washington by surprise and infuriated Pakistan.

President Musharraf, America’s critical ally who is pushing hard for a leading role for the Pashto-speaking southern tribes in a future government, regarded Mr Putin’s intervention as provocative. The fallout from Mr Putin’s visit to Tajikistan in the early hours of yesterday further highlighted the complex and delicate diplomatic drama unfolding alongside the military campaign in Afghanistan.

In another sign of tension, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, last night defied Islamabad’s plea for a suspension of American bombing during the holy month of Ramadan. “There continue to be terrorist threats in this world and the sooner we deal with this problem, the less likely it is that you are going to have additional terrorist attacks.”

The effect of the apparent Moscow-Washington split was all the more alarming because it came just hours after Mr Bush and Mr. Putin had shared their warmest meeting to date at the 21-nation conference of Asia-Pacific countries in China. On Sunday evening Condoleezza Rice, Mr Bush’s National Security Adviser, said Mr Putin was a “stalwart partner” in the war on terrorism, and that he and Mr Bush had talked about the desire for a “broad-based” government to succeed the Taleban. “The Russians made very clear that they believed that it had to be broad-based, in fact, that one of the mistakes of the past had been not to recognise the truly multi-ethnic character of Afghanistan,” Ms Rice said.

Yet within hours of leaving Shanghai, Mr Putin had stopped off in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, to deliver a different message. He met his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rakhmonov, for more than three hours and the last President of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who heads the Northern Alliance. Mr Putin called the Northern Alliance Aghanistan’s “legitimate government”, adding: “We consider that the (Taleban) movement has compromised itself through its cooperation with international terrorists,” and that “the position of the legitimate and internationally recognised government of the Islamic state of Afghanistan, which is that the Taleban movement must not be represented in the future leadership, is well founded.”

Mr Rabbani was ousted by the Taleban in 1996, but is still recognised by the United Nations and most states as Afghanistan’s President. Mr Putin’s comments set alarm bells ringing in Washington, where Colin Powell, the Secretary of State — and his counterparts in Islamabad — are racing to identify potential Taleban moderates who could take part in a broad-based coalition that would also include emigré Afghans, the former King, Zahir Shah, and elements from the opposition Northern Alliance. Pakistan is reportedly pushing for a formula in which government posts would be divided equally among the moderate Taleban members, Pashtun tribesmen and the Northern Alliance.

It is Washington’s nervousness about a Northern Alliance takeover in Kabul that has prevented the Pentagon from bombing Taleban positions around the Afghan capital. The Northern Alliance, which holds land in northeastern Afghanistan, is dominated by ethnic Tajiks related to the people of ex-Soviet Tajikistan. Russia backs it to protect itself from the Islamic fundamentalism that it fears might otherwise creep over the border into the former Soviet states of Central Asia. But the Northern Alliance commands little support among Afghanistan’s Pashtun ethnic majority.

Islamabad, however, insists that a new leadership heavy on majority ethnic Pashtuns is not only essential for destroying the present hard-line Taleban regime, but also to provide the basis for a stable post- Taleban government.

Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd., United Kingdom, Fair Use for Educational and Research Purposes Only

-- Robert Riggs (, October 23, 2001


Just heard on the morning news that now we are bombing the advance Taliban positions facing the Northern Alliance.

-- Uncle Fred (, October 23, 2001.

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