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Tuesday, December 8, 1998 Published at 05:47 GMT

World: South Asia

Afghan council of war

By Zahir Tanin

About 300 commanders of the anti-Taleban alliance are holding a conference to discuss the establishment of a single military command and a new strategy in their struggle against the Taleban.

The meeting is taking place in the Panjshir valley, the stronghold of Ahmad Shah Massoud. Participants include the leader of the Hezb-i-Wahdat Shiite party, Karim Khalili, the chairman of the Islamic Alliance, Abdorassul Sayyaf, and a leader of Hezb-i-Islami, Wahidullah Saboun.

The main objective of the conference is to discuss ways of uniting all anti-Taleban forces under a high command led by Commander Massoud.

But at the same time they want to draw up a new military and political strategy for a bid to end Taleban rule, at least in the areas in the north of Afghanistan that they controlled until this summer.

According to spokesman for the alliance Dr Abdullah, the meeting was a first step towards military coordination and the formation of a single army.

Some recent successes

The forces of Commander Massoud and some of his local allies have had successes in pushing back the Taleban from a number of areas in the north and north-east during the last few weeks.

The anti-Taleban spokesman says that the Taleban is facing a series of revolts by locals who have become increasingly angered by Taleban rule.

Taleban sources, however, insist that the latest attacks against them are mainly the result of a shift of rebels between provinces.

However, the Taleban did recently send thousands of reinforcements to the north, an indication of just how serious the situation is.

Now it seems that the anti-Taleban commanders are trying to capitalise on their successes in readiness for the forthcoming battles when winter is over.

Divisions hard to resolve

But the question is whether the fractured anti- Taleban alliance is capable of overcoming its differences and reuniting itself to restore the status-quo-ante.

The spokesman of the alliance said that they had learned from the past that what they need is to seek a new way of coordinating their efforts, based on a single military command and a single political platform, rather than relying on a fragile coalition of independent parties.

The commanders are also discussing a new military strategy, which aims to open new fronts firstly in mountainous areas and secondly in the plains.

In the past the anti- Taleban forces were seriously weakened by major divisions among themselves, and for this reason the prospects for a new alliance do not look very encouraging.

The willingness of the various factions to discuss the idea of a single military command and a single political platform represents a new and significant development, which the Taleban has already dismissed, alluding to past failures on the part of the "allies" to unite in the face of a common danger.

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