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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 15:19 GMT 16:19 UK
Friction between Taleban and foreign fighters
Taleban soldiers in Jalalabad, Afghanistan
Afghans have been protesting at Taleban 'arrogance'
By the BBC's Roger Hardy

There are reports from different parts of Afghanistan of friction between the ruling Taleban movement and the foreign forces loyal to the Saudi-born Islamic militant Osama Bin Laden.

Reports from both the eastern city of Jalalabad and Kandahar in the south speak of Afghan resentment of the way Bin Laden's forces are acting as if they ran the country.

It has long been a matter of debate whether Afghanistan is ruled by the Taleban or by Bin Laden and his fighters.

Ever since Bin Laden sought refuge in the country in 1996, his money and his multi-national army of Islamic militants - made up of Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and others - have proved indispensable to the Taleban.

Signs of conflict

Now, after ten days of bombing by the United States, there are some signs of conflict between the two.

Taleban soldiers with a truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns in Kabul
There were reported clashes between Arabs fighters and Taleban police in Kandahar
Eyewitness reports from the strategically-important eastern town of Jalalabad say Afghans have been protesting at what they regard as the arrogant behaviour of Bin Laden's fighters.

When Taleban officials complained that Arab and Chechen fighters were harassing staff working for the World Health Organisation, they were told: "We are the rulers now."

This follows reports a few days ago of clashes between Arab fighters and Taleban police in the southern city of Kandahar.

Such friction is not altogether new. The Arabs and other foreign forces were initially welcomed when they came to help Afghans fight the Soviet occupation forces in the 1980s.

Widening cracks

But some Afghans feel they have overstayed their welcome. They have gained a reputation for being aggressive and fiercely anti-Western.

The United States and its allies are hoping the cracks start to widen in the alliance between Bin Laden's men and their beleaguered Afghan hosts.

Estimates of how many fighters Bin Laden has range from a few thousand to about 12,000. They are dispersed at different locations - including the front-line positions where the Taleban face their opponents in the Northern Alliance.

They are highly motivated - and since for most of them Afghanistan is their last refuge, they have nowhere else to go.

See also:

17 Oct 01 | South Asia
US 'striking Taleban front lines'
17 Oct 01 | South Asia
Powell gets Indian backing
16 Oct 01 | South Asia
Taleban face civil unrest
16 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition 'seizes key airport'
16 Oct 01 | Media reports
Pro-US radio launched for Afghanistan
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