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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
Afghan opposition seeks united front
Afghanistan opposition fighter
Northern Alliance fighters need foreign arms
By the BBC's Jim Fish

Afghanistan's opposition forces, led by the Northern Alliance, are increasingly confident of overthrowing the Taleban.

To succeed, most observers say they will need more weapons and help from the American-led coalition dedicated to fighting terrorism and those who support it.

They will also have to overcome the tribalism and feuding which tore the country apart and let in the Taleban five years ago.

They have the Taleban in their sights, but Afghanistan's opposition Northern Alliance are outnumbered and for the moment outgunned by their enemy.

That could change if the battle-hardened mainly Tajik fighters get the weapons they need to roll back the Taleban from their present dominance.

Commander

Last month they lost their commander, Ahmed Shah Masood, who was killed by assassins probably sent by Osama Bin Laden.

But Masood's brother, Ahmed Wali Masood, who represents the opposition in London, insists that his death will only spur them on.

"Masood was the one who could foresee the national unity of Afghanistan, who wanted to see Afghanistan free of foreign hands and wanted to see a government of national unity and that was his aim and we, the United Front, are committed to pursue his goals and aims until the end," Ahmed Wali Masood said.

Mohammed Zahir Shah,
Former king Zahir Shah could rally forces
In north-central Afghanistan the opposition's great survivor is General Rashid Dostum.

An Uzbek chieftain, he has fought and made peace with almost every army, including the Russians.

But for now, at least, he is part of the united front fighting to expand their territory and, they believe, bring down the Taleban.

Another possible anti-Taleban leader is the former king, Zahir Shah.

Exiled king

He has been jointly courted in his Rome exile by both the Northern Alliance and some American Congressmen.

At 86, he is no strongman to bang together the heads of his unruly subjects.

But if he can return home at the head of a post-Taleban regime, then Afghans will have nothing to fear - except their neighbours, and themselves.

And as Michael Griffin, a writer on Afghanistan, points out, what happens in Afghanistan is vital to the entire region.

"What happens in Afghanistan has a profound impact because the tectonic plates of a number of different empires all collide in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia- their national security depends very much on who takes power in Kabul," he says.

See also:

02 Oct 01 | South Asia
Deal to oust Taleban sealed
03 Oct 01 | Media reports
Battle for Afghan airwaves
03 Oct 01 | South Asia
Pakistan studies Bin Laden evidence
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Afghan instability
01 Oct 01 | South Asia
Musharraf admits failure over Taleban
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