BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: South Asia
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 17:28 GMT
Afghanistan's security nightmare
Afghan sentry in battle for control of Gardez
Afghan warlords are vying for power outside Kabul
Marcus George

The resurgence of local warlords has placed security, rather than reconstruction, at the top of the new Afghan government's agenda.

Interim leader Hamid Karzai told the BBC he received hundreds of requests every day for more international security forces outside Kabul.

But British Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon, who met Mr Karzai during a brief visit to Afghanistan, said there were no plans to extend peacekeeping operations beyond Kabul.
British Secretary of State for Defence Geoff Hoon
Hoon said peacekeeping would not be expanded into the countryside

Scores of people died last week when an Afghan commander tried to fight his way to power in Gardez, eastern Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai described the incident as "somehow expected".

"I knew all along that was going to happen there," he said. "But still it is very sad. The man we sent there as a governor had no right to go and impose himself on Gardez by using his military unit."

National army

Even if peace-keepers did decide to extend their operations beyond Kabul, implementing the plan could take weeks - or even months.

This has made the creation of a national army all the more important.

Substituting more than 20 years of bitter rivalries for mutual cooperation will not be easy. And removing power from men who fought their way to the top will be risky.

Two years ago I spoke to a former commander who told me that he would be able to summon 200 armed men in the capital overnight. This was during the security-obsessed time of the Taleban.


The new administration must also tackle the lawlessness which has blossomed in the wake of the Taleban's collapse. Highway looting and illegal "road tolls" have become widespread.
Afghan doctor covering body with blanket
Scores of people died in the battle for Gardez

Interim Interior Minister Younis Qanooni has estimated that a 70,000-strong police force will be needed to maintain order throughout the country. He says Afghanistan should be able to rely on its own security within a year.

Disarming the local population will be one of the new body's most important tasks. Rounding up weapons after nearly a quarter of century of war will be a huge undertaking.

Rifles stashed underground are routinely dug up and sold as antiques in Kabul.

Thousands of former Mujahedin fighters across the country may be anxious to hold onto their guns. And local bandits will be eager to do the same.

See also:

04 Feb 02 | South Asia
UN 'averts war in Mazar'
03 Feb 02 | South Asia
Karzai tackles warlord dispute
30 Jan 02 | South Asia
Rival factions clash in Gardez
23 Oct 01 | South Asia
Mazar-e-Sharif's bloody history
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories