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Monday, 28 January, 2002, 13:29 GMT
Warlords threaten Afghan stability
Militiamen loyal to provincial warlord Gul Agha patrol the streets of downtown Kandahar
Militiamen loyal to local warlords patrol the streets
By Kate Clark in Kabul

United Nations relief workers are warning that lawlessness and crime in Afghanistan are now seriously hampering their work.

Aid convoys have been attacked several times. In one incident, 40 tonnes of food aid on its way to villagers in drought-hit areas of northern Afghanistan were stolen at gunpoint.

Unless we actually move towards something that is more broad based and more representative, then I fear we will see great problems

Chris Johnson, aid worker

In some cases, the attacks are the work of bandits. But there is also growing tension in some areas between different tribal leaders.

Even in Kabul, where the international security assistance force is patrolling, crime is already on the increase. Political tensions are evident as well.

The Former president Burhanuddin Rabbani is still in the presidential palace in Kabul, guarded by men from his home village.

As the last pre-Taleban president, he formally handed over power a month ago to the new head of the interim government, Hamed Karzai.

Mr Rabbani has no position in the new administration, but remains an extremely powerful man.

Faction leaders

Leaders of armed factions still dominate Afghan politics.

The new interim government includes technocrats and exiles. But men from just one faction hold the defence, interior and foreign ministries, and control the police force, intelligence and army.

They come from the Panjshir valley, from the Jamiat-i-Islami faction of the Northern Alliance.

And that is a recipe for instability, says Joerd Kowastani, who was an observer at the Bonn conference, and is a leader of the Democracy and Freedom Party which worked clandestinely in the Taleban era.

"People are extremely worried about this," Mr Kowastani says.

"If it continues it will harm the peace process in Afghanistan, and could slow down the return of refugees and rehabilitation. And we want these important institutions to be made up of different ethnic groups so that there's even-handedness."
UN aid convoy
Aid convoys are coming under attack

The American campaign left Afghanistan free of the Taleban and al-Qaida, but also awash with weapons, and with the armed men much more powerful.

Chris Johnson has directed aid work in Afghanistan since the mid-1990s.

"Basically since the Taleban have gone we've got a power vacuum in the country, and an interim administration in Kabul," he says.

"Even a multi-national force hasn't actually solved that problem.

"And I think secondly we have an interim administration which is by no means representative - we have lots of unhappiness from those who feel very much excluded from it, and unless we actually move towards something that is more broad based and more representative, then I fear we will see great problems."

Security

So what is it like to work in government with the commanders - the men of war?

Dr Sima Sima is a member of the new interim administration, and the director of an Afghan aid agency.

Former president Burhanuddin Rabbani
Rabbani is still in the presidential palace

"This government is totally dependent on international community and aid, so we hope that we can really get something in, built a kind of peace and security. I believe that if you provide a lot of job opportunities to the people, then we'll reduce the problem of security."

Meanwhile, there are suggestions that former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, like leaders of other armed factions, is busy trying to buy up commanders, paying cash for what he hopes will be long term influence.

There are only five months left of the interim administration. After that, representatives from all over Afghanistan will choose what should be a broad-based government.

The armed factions still have everything to play for - manoeuvring for political power, and making sure they are ready if the political process fails.

See also:

15 Jan 02 | South Asia
US to unfreeze Afghan assets
15 Jan 02 | South Asia
Arms cache found near US base
14 Jan 02 | Americas
New captives arrive on Cuba
14 Jan 02 | Media reports
Afghan forces face uphill struggle
21 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan hopes for global aid
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