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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK
Analysis: Afghanistan's future
Anti-Taleban fighters
The US is trying to make use of anti-Taleban fighters
By Islamic affairs analyst Roger Hardy

United States officials are seeking to build an internal coalition of Afghans opposed to the ruling Taleban movement as part of their pressure on the Taleban.

The move will work in tandem with plans to build an external coalition of countries which are opposed to terrorism.


But the Northern Alliance has a credibility problem, for both political and military reasons

In the short run, the American aim seems to be to pile the pressure on the Taleban without, as yet, making their removal from power an explicit goal.

This is designed to achieve several things:

  • To rattle the Taleban psychologically
  • To encourage defections in Taleban ranks,
  • To give the Taleban one last chance to surrender the Saudi-born radical Islamist Osama Bin Laden

It has to be said that it seems unlikely that the Taleban will hand Bin Laden over.

But beyond these short-term aims, US officials are clearly looking ahead to what a post-Taleban Afghanistan might look like.

Taleban soldiers check the identity paper of a driver in Kabul
The US increases political and military pressure on Taleban supporters
They are considering how best they can help the coalition of anti-Taleban forces known as the Northern Alliance.

They are also encouraging the Alliance's main regional allies, Russia and Iran, to do more.

But the Northern Alliance has a credibility problem, for both political and military reasons.

Its leaders believe they have a unique chance to get US backing in a new drive to topple the Taleban.

But before committing themselves, US officials are understandably being cautious.

Ethnic questions

The Alliance lacks support from the country's dominant ethnic group, the Pashtuns.

There is much speculation about a role for the ex-king Zahir Shah - he is a Pashtun - but he is 86 and has no military faction at his command.

On the ground much of Afghanistan is under the control of local Pashtun warlords - military commanders some of whom have no inherent loyalty to the Taleban, and may well switch sides if they think the Taleban are about to be swept from power.

Finally, the Americans cannot afford to exclude Pakistan from any decision-making about Afghanistan's future.

The Pakistanis have little choice but to accept the demise of their protégé, the Taleban.

But they will insist on maintaining a future role in a country they regard as within their sphere of influence.

See also:

24 Sep 01 | South Asia
UN prepares for refugee crisis
24 Sep 01 | Americas
US to produce Bin Laden evidence
23 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition 'gaining ground'
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
16 Sep 01 | Americas
US prepares for war
17 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan - a tough military option
23 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan ex-king offers his services
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