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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 12:39 GMT
Afghanistan: The political challenge
United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi
UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi wants to form an interim government as soon as possible
By BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason

The fall of Kabul has radically transformed the military situation inside Afghanistan, but it has also created a whole new set of wider political challenges.

The military sweep of northern Afghanistan exposes how far events on the ground have raced ahead of the political efforts to create a new broad-based Afghan administration

The hectic events of the past few days will accelerate efforts to form an interim government in the Afghan capital.

Only a week ago, there was still great scepticism that the US bombing was achieving anything but stoke Muslim anger.

But the United States will see the fall of Kabul as a vindication of its strategy - even if the entry of the Northern Alliance opens up a new set of problems.

Partial success

Those Muslims across the Middle East and beyond who are not ideological supporters of the Taleban will be for the moment less vociferous in their opposition to US policy.

Northern Alliance rocket launcher
The Northern Alliance advance has opened up a new set of problems
Most people want to be on the winning side, and the exit of the Taleban from Kabul takes some of the pressure off the Arab and Muslim governments which have backed the anti-terrorism campaign.

But even for the western powers, it is only a partial success.

The UK Government said it was an important step towards depriving Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network of its safe haven.

The fact that it spoke only of a step is a reminder that the ousting of the Taleban is not the central aim of the campaign.

The military sweep of northern Afghanistan exposes how far events on the ground have raced ahead of the political efforts to create a new broad-based Afghan administration.

Bridging structure

The United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who is due to brief the Security Council in New York, says he hopes he can get a representative sample of Afghans together as soon as possible to work out some interim arrangements.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell admits the situation has moved more quickly than expected
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has told The New York Times of plans to form a bridging political structure under UN supervision.

He said it might soon be necessary to send in a peacekeeping force led by Muslim countries.

Turkey, Bangladesh and Indonesia have offered troops for what he described as "a coalition of the willing".

Mr Powell admitted that things were moving much more rapidly than they had anticipated just a week ago.

See also:

13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan concern at Kabul's fall
12 Nov 01 | Americas
Powers search for Afghan settlement
11 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden nuclear fears calmed
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Herat, the 'pearl' of Afghanistan
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Mazar residents hail Taleban defeat
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
Major boost for Afghan aid effort
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: The Taleban collapse
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