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Reaction of ordinary people in Northern Afghanistan 8/10/01
For the vast majority of Afghans,
this was a morning like any other.
After more than two decades of
constant war, all life here feels
temporary. This mud town, Khawaja
Bahauddin, doesn't even figure on
maps. It grew up just a few years
ago to serve the new military
headquarters of the anti-Taliban
forces, the Northern Alliance.
With many fathers away at the
war, it's often the children of the
1,500 refugee families around the
town who are called to collect the
rations provided by aid agencies.
Their thumbprints certify receipt
of their four kilos of sugar and six
bottles of cooking oil. But not all
of them are strong enough to carry
the food away. But now Western
air strikes have begun, families
who fled the Taliban advance are
hesitantly hoping they eventually
may be able to return to their old
If they keep on with this action,
soon we will be able to go back
to our villages. But if they only
do it for one or two days, the
situation will be the same as before,
and we won't be able to go home.
But aid workers have already
started working out how best to
organise relief if these camps
begin to empty.
(ACTED Aid Agency)
These attacks have ushered in
a sense of expectation for these
people. Many of them believe
that perhaps they will be able
to go home soon. We are talking
about thousands of families.
We have to be ready with
significant resources to assist
them when the time comes.
Today the motley troops of
the Northern Alliance were
charging their weapons with a
new confidence, boosted by
the knowledge that America is
now doing most of their job
for them. Until now, they have
spent years fighting a rear-guard
action to defend an ever shrinking
corner of the country. Northern
Alliance leaders say that in the
wake of the British and American
strikes they want to advance
from here to retake the important
northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.
But for now, it's still a waiting
game. The front line hasn't moved
for seven months, and the local
commanders say they will need
more action from the West before
they can move forward. The
Northern Alliance's revered
former commander, Ahmed Shah
Massood, was assassinated last
month before he could create a
unified regular army from a set
of disparate militias, controlled
by fractious warlords. His
successor, General Mohammed
Fahim, still has to contend with
deep ethnic and personal rivalries
among his subordinates. But the
Northern Alliance has paraded one
of its prisoners to show how it
believes the Taliban regime may
now crumble from within. This
Taliban soldier, captured in the
Panjshir valley, said he would now
change sides, and fight against his
former comrades. Troops in the
north are listening eagerly for details
of the ongoing American attacks.
Meanwhile, their own leaders are
giving no information about their
plans, although they are certainly
(Northern Alliance Commander,
We are ready right now to capture
Kabul and take care of the security
of the civilians. They have been
under the Taliban for six years. We
want to give them independence.
In practice, the route to a new
Afghanistan is completely uncharted.
For now, these Afghans will carry
on risking their lives to earn a little
money trading across the river that
marks the front line. They are
doing what they have always done,
living with war.