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Correspondent Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 17:53 GMT
The Afghan trap
Map of Afghanistan
With the Northern Alliance from Faizabad to Kabul
Live webcast with Phil Rees 3rd December 2001, 15:30 (GMT). Please click on top icon on the right "FORUM".



Click here for transcripts



Travelling with the Northern Alliance from Faizabad into Kabul and in the midst of the celebrations at the rout of the Taleban, Correspondent sounds a note of caution. Award-winning reporter Phil Rees has been in Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance.

President of the Northern Alliance
Rabbani: Glad to be back in Kabul

The face of the leader of the Northern Alliance, Burhanuddin Rabbani, broke into a broad smile as he sat down in front of journalists in Kabul. It was his first time back in Afghanistan's capital city since he fled in the dead of night from advancing Taleban troops in 1996.

In a reversal of fortune, his troops had captured Kabul a day earlier as the Taleban escaped during the night. Rabbani was back where he thought he belonged.

The Northern Alliance

In less than three months, the Northern Alliance had been catapulted into the world's headlines and began styling itself as Afghanistan's government in waiting.

Before that, the Northern Alliance was a band of badly armed soldiers and forgotten politicians.

After Rabbani's regime was toppled, the former Mujahideen factions that he had led settled mostly to the barren north, with it's headquarters in Faizabad, a small, dust swept town.

Northern Alliance
Northern Alliance factions have not always been happy allies

They regrouped as the Northern Alliance and continued to lose territory to the Taleban as a low level war continued.

Their blood-stained misrule from 1992-96 - when the Northern Alliance was simply called the Mujahideen - was forgotten. Warlords jostled for power, their guns and munitions often paid for by opium cultivation. The in-fighting destroyed Kabul and left tens of thousands dead.

Most factions in the Northern Alliance have at some time fought each other - often before making cynical deals a few months later.

New Government

Many western nations believe that the Northern Alliance cannot provide a stable government for Afghanistan because its leaders are from a minority ethnic group, the Tajiks.

Tribal rivalries have triggered wars throughout Afghanistan's past. The Northern Alliance excludes senior representatives of the largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns.


We are the legitimate government of Afghanistan and the first thing the West should do is treat us as the proper government

Burhannudin Rabbani

The attempt to forge a power sharing deal by the United Nations continues, seemingly oblivious to the reality on the ground. The Northern Alliance controls government ministries and has thousands of troops guarding the nation's capital.

Burhanuddin Rabbani told me earlier; "We are the legitimate government of Afghanistan and the first thing the West should do is treat us as the proper government."

The talking over the future of Afghanistan may continue. But the outside world should not forget one of the enduring truths from Afghan's turbulent history: Power is never handed over except in battle.

The Afghan Trap: Sunday 2nd December 2001 at 1915 on BBC Two

Reporter: Phil Rees
Producer: Frank Smith
Deputy Editor: Farah Durrani
Editor: Fiona Murch

 WATCH/LISTEN
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Phil Rees
The Afghan trap

Rebuilding

Political uncertainty

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See also:

23 Nov 01 | Country profiles
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
02 Aug 00 | Middle East
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