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Sunday, 28 April, 2002, 21:01 GMT 22:01 UK
Afghan anniversary gives pause for thought
Mujahideen fighters parading in Kabul
The parade was a reminder of past suffering

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By Marcus George
BBC News Online, Kabul

Soldiers, guns, tanks and helicopters. The symbols of war returned to Kabul's streets on Sunday in a celebration to mark the mujahideens' hard-fought victory against communism 10 long years ago.

The roar of the country's only fighter jet deafened the masses as groups of newly formed Afghan fighters marched past the city's largest mosque.

The "victory parade" - attended by chairman of the interim administration Hamid Karzai - drew thousands of onlookers to remember the mujahideen's greatest moment which dealt a knock-out blow to Russian interference in the fiercely independent land.

Massoud remembrance

The Northern Alliance show of strength was a memorial to the legendary commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated just days before the 11 September attacks on the US.

A huge float dressed in the colours of the new government, flanked by dozens of fighers in Afghan flat hats and army fatigues, carried his portrait.

Ahmad Shah Massoud picture dominating the festivities
A giant picture of slain commander Ahmad Shah Massoud dominated the parade
And with guns, there were roses, spewing from the barrels of Kalashnikovs.

A traditional Afghan band was greeted with a volley of cheers.

"The Soviets were dogs," a taxi driver told me. "The mujahideen time was very bad, but even the worst of it was never as bad as during the time of the Russians."

Despite the spectacular floorshow, this was a remembrance of the bloody history since the great victory.

Only 10 years later have positive developments come to light. In reality there has been little to celebrate.

Civil strife

Mujahideen forces arrived in the city in April 1992, claiming power from a Soviet-backed Afghan Government and banishing the last vestiges of communism into history.

Within two days, inter-factional rivalry gave way to a new chapter of civil conflict and a siege of Kabul by the infamous warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, which resulted in the deaths of over 50,000 civilians.

Disabled Afghans take part in the parade
The losses of the conflict were enormous
Mujahideen groups had shown their abilities against the great Soviet bear on the battlefield. But these skills did not transfer to the negotiating table.

The decrepit structure of Darulaman palace remains, but only just. With no roof and huge gashes in its walls, the skeletal structure now exists only as a public toilet. It had been a royal residence, but when the mujahideen came all this changed.

One man living nearby told me a story of how three mujahideen fighters had argued over an exquisite carpet found there.

"They couldn't agree who should have it," he said, "so they ripped it to pieces. That is how they behaved. They were savages."

Once a wealthy neighbourhood, Karte Seh, in the east of Kabul, is now an unpopulated wasteland.

Afghans welcomed the Northern Alliance into Kabul last November. Five years of the strict Taleban doctrine had ended.

But others say they would prefer the return of the Taleban to another four bloody years of fractured mujahideen rule.

Fears linger

So far, the interim government has faced no real threats. But there are fears that without foreign troops, the country could descend into infighting once more.

The parade began just a day after the ongoing power battle in Gardez, in the east of Afghanistan, which left a handful of fighters dead and others wounded.

The fabric of factionalism is still present in Afghanistan and divisions between mujahideen groups are almost as clear as 10 years ago.

Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai taking the salute at the parade
Mr Karzai's government has not been challenged, but remains fragile
The Tajik faction controls the foreign, defence and interior ministries. The leader of the Uzbeks, General Rashid Dostum, was appointed deputy defence minister. Former mujahideen President Burhanuddin Rabbani is taking an increasingly Islamic stance.

Rumours now circulate that another warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has returned to his home ground in Sarobi, to the east of Kabul. This has not been confirmed.

Sunday's parade may have brought back vivid memories of pain - but it will also serve as a sharp reminder to all powers in the beleaguered country that its stability still remains on a knife edge.

See also:

27 Apr 02 | South Asia
US forces 'join Pakistani raid'
07 Apr 02 | South Asia
Rocket fired at Kabul peacekeepers
08 Apr 02 | South Asia
'Significant' Afghan papers found
14 Apr 02 | South Asia
US troops kill al-Qaeda fighters
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