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Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 13:28 GMT
Who should take control of Kabul?
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The Northern Alliance is consolidating its hold on the Afghan capital, Kabul, and has invited the United Nations to help organise discussions on a post-Taleban government.
Leaders of the Northern Alliance have taken over key ministries in the city as diplomatic efforts intensified to fill a power vacuum left by the fleeing Taleban.
The movement's fighters entered Kabul unopposed to scenes of chaos and jubilation on Monday night after a series of sweeping advances in the north.
But with apparently no authority in control, looting broke out and it was reported that some Arab volunteers serving with the Taleban were summarily shot.
US President George W Bush had warned the Afghan opposition against trying to seize control of Kabul as it could endanger hopes for a future broad-based government.
Do you support the latest developments in Afghanistan? Should the Northern Alliance be allowed to fill the political vacuum in Kabul? Or should they be held back by the US-led coalition until a broad-based government can be assembled?
We discussed the future for Afghanistan in a special edition of Talking Point ON AIR, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online.
Dalni, Nice, France
Without doubt, the US and UK oil companies should take control of Kabul. There will be no peace until then.
The Northern Alliance people are the worst thing for Afghanistan. I wonder why the world doesn't know that these are the same people who shot dead thousands of innocent people who got in their way. In my opinion and in the opinion of most in that region they are much much much worst than Taleban. The time will again tell I am sure.
Truthfully, the Taleban were the only order in Afghanistan. The United Front were making a mess of the country before the Taleban came in and brought order. Let them just slaughter each other and may the best men win. No more great games (remember the first Afghan war?)
The coalition and the United Nations should "facilitate" a meeting by which the various Afghan parties can discuss among themselves how to come to some interim governing arrangement. During the time that this will take there should be a multinational force - made up of mainly Muslim nations to ensure security and prevent any inter-factional fighting. We can see from history that the Afghans will not allow outsiders to dictate to them what they should do and how they should govern their country. All the various parties in and outside Afghanistan should be part of the process whether it is held in the country or in some suitable Muslim nation.
Chris Hann, USA (Brit)
The world should seek a multinational peacekeeping force for a country racked by civil war since 1979, when the former Soviet Union invaded to back communist rule in the Muslim country. All ethnic groups should come under one umbrella with a multinational security force to protect them. And we wish the Afghan people the best.
Now the Afghans have to face much bigger war and much more dangerous to their society - drugs, prostitution, women exploitation for commercial benefits, rapes, children born out wedlock, runaway children, alcohol, gambling, child pornography, magazines full of filth, worshipping money.
It is in the interests of the Northern Alliance, if they want anything more than fleeting power, to get world approval. It is in the interests of the civilised world to have Islam-respected countries do the work of bringing the country to the point where it is stable and well-behaved. It is definitely in the interests of Afghan people to have humane, accountable, multi-party government. So: the neighbouring countries should take responsibility for helping Afghanistan get to the point where it can safely run itself, and intervene if needed to ensure basic conditions are met (in conjunction with the UN and Islamic leaders and relief agencies).
James Whitwell, UK
The Northern Alliance say they don't want peace keepers in Kabul or Afghanistan itself. I wonder how long it will be before the west goes to war with them.
I would suggest the coalition take control of Kabul before the Northern Alliance get comfortable or else, we will see a repeat of Afghanistan after the Soviets. Also the Taleban should be included or else there may be problem of civil war. I have to say the coalition have a very huge task in their hands.
Paul, London, UK
We all have to hope this is a real fresh start for Afghanistan. The fight is far from over. All the groups fighting the Taleban MUST hunt down all their leaders and make sure their weapons have been taken from them, otherwise it won't be 5 years before the world will be reliving the scenes we are seeing now. I don't' see why Pakistan and others are so keen on including the Taleban - they are not an ethnic group but religious. Besides, the havoc they have done should automatically exclude them. If they want to be represented, they could be represented by the Pashtuns who are not Taleban.
In reply to comments made by Tassie Bader, San Francisco, USA, I think he/she should refrain from dragging Indian women into this discussion - India has nothing to do with the oppression women and children suffer in Afghanistan. I am an Indian woman and I am offended by the words "semi nude Indian movie actresses". At least they are doing a job earning money not terrorising people or running around the world with a begging bowl.
Liberation of Kabul is about communal peace, a stable broad based government and two meals a day. Somehow, based on their dismal track record, I do not think the Northern Alliance can deliver such standards of liberty and stability.
Al of London manages to miss the point completely. Only when they have political freedom are people allowed to tackle the problems of homelessness, poverty and disease, whether they go it alone or take advantage of outside assistance. To imply that they are too lazy or stupid to tackle their own problems now they have the freedom to do so is a gross insult to these people.
To Aref Abassi: Rabani has legal status - he is the official president as recognised by the United Nations!
If the NA army are in Kabul for security reasons, then why is Burahanudeen Rabani entering Kabul as President? He has no legal status, and specially in this particular phase of Afghan history, where all efforts are geared up toward a broad based national administration, there is no place for Rabani.
James Thorne, Manchester UK
Have coalition forces police the country; The United Kingdom will be in charge of humanitarian efforts (including city infrastructure and air base command. While the U.S. finishes what Al-Qaeda started.
Let's keep on pushing them from other fronts not giving them time to re-group.
Tom T, Chicago, USA
But I don't think the Northern Alliance are that stupid and are tired of fighting. They want peace! The only stupid Bin Laden, he totally underestimated America and will now pay the price. As far as Afghanistan goes, I want to see freedom spread throughout the land and women to finally have rights and children to learn in a comfortable environment. Men always had rights, let the women talk, let the women help form its new government. This is an exciting new beginning for Afghanistan, let's support them and stop pointing fingers.
I support Maria, USA. Why not a install a woman leader? It is time that the women of Afghanistan take control. I am sure there is a Golda Mayer or Indira Gandhi in Afghanistan waiting in the wings ready to lead and guide the confused masses of their country.
After Kabul, it's Kandahar and after Kandahar, it should be the caves and after the caves it should be the terrorist camps in Pakistan. Phew, we just saved the planet!
It wasn't that long ago that the USA was supporting the Taleban and look what happened there. When are they going to learn that meddling in other countries' internal affairs only leads to resentment and more strife in the long run?
To Samantha, Liverpool, England: The Taleban have only been in power since 1994, long after US involvement to repel the Soviet Union. In fact our support for the Taleban consisted of immediate sanctions and not recognizing their control of the government. However, the US has been criticized for not staying in Afghanistan in the 1980s to help set up a government, but I guess that is what you meant by meddling.
After Kabul the US and its allies should start thinking how they're going to explain the Afghan campaign when it becomes apparent that driving the Taleban out has done precisely nothing to prevent terrorism and everything to destabilise an already dangerous region.
American military action has essentially led to the collapse of six year old Taleban rule in Afghanistan. The country is now being divided on ethnic lines. It appears that the Taleban are now history and a new Afghan scenario is emerging along ethnic lines. In the present situation a strong commitment by all the coalition countries is needed to bring peace to Afghanistan and prevent civil war among the various ethnic groups.
Cluster bombs and mines should be cleared as a matter of urgency.
What we are seeing is 15 governments in Afghanistan. Broad-based is the last thing practicable in Afghanistan. By nature they accept a strong ruler and none is in sight.
So why not enter American troops? It will help
This should be a warning to the world. The USA will no longer sit idly by and allow its interests to be destroyed. The USA has global reach and can destroy any government in the world. The fanatics have awoken a sleeping giant.
In reply to Daniel of Chicago - You state that: "The USA has global reach and can destroy any government in the world." That really isn't a sentiment the rest of the world wants to hear or I want to project. If you want to throw around platitudes, how about saying the USA has the "capability and will to overcome any threat or enemy in the world." Maybe even throw in something about "liberating" in there. And, please, I am so tired of that sleeping giant cliché.
In rely to Terry Amis, UK - You state: "these [Northern Alliance] people are TERRORISTS, they are just as bad as the Taliban" No, they are not just as bad as the Taliban. The Taliban are harboring bin Laden who is behind the deaths of 5000+ in New York City and will continue to sponsor terrorism without his and his organization's elimination. Therefore, the Taliban are a problem the U.S. must deal with. And, please, don't criticize me that I think U.S. lives are more important than non-U.S. lives. Protecting U.S. lives is a primary responsibility of the U.S. Government. Policies, including military policies, should reflect that.
Terry, you also state that "They [Taliban, Northern Alliance, IRA] have all been funded by the good old US of A." No, we did not fund the Taliban. Yes, we funded the Mujhadeen against the Soviets, some who later joined the Taliban. That accusation is kind of like accusing Great Britain of funding the U.S. War Of Independence because they supplied arms to forces for the French-Indian War who would later become Patriots. And, the "US of A" has not funded the IRA. Private people and groups (mostly out of Boston - why can't you people get along with Bostonians - remember that Tea Party?) support the IRA, usually illegally. The U.S. Government does not fund the IRA.
Kathleen, Chicago, USA
I think that in order to avoid further chaos, there should be no elections etc. in Afghanistan. Instead, let the US and UK people vote on the future of that country. Or this is a special privilege held by Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair only?
And, most importantly, all the foreigners who over the years have destroyed Afghanistan - be they Russian, British, Arab or Pakistani - need to allow the people of Afghanistan to decide their own fate.
At last, I was waiting for something like this to happen to the Taliban regime because they are criminals who use false ideology about Islam to kill all innocent Afghans and the rest of the world. I hope the USA/UK cooperate with the UN to bring a stable, moderate government into Afghanistan and also into Somalia - because Somalia is so vulnerable for any criminal to come in and we have to prevent that from happening. Let's not watch the same thing happen there.
Collin Robson, Toronto, Canada
In reply to Zack Pandor, UK. So what if the Taleban did curb drugs production - that was about the only decent thing they did do - if indeed they did! Let's not forget that people aren't forced to take drugs. I don't care particularly who ends up with the job of running the place, but I just hope that: (a) they're not too corrupt (because unfortunately most politicians are!); (b) they have absolutely NO religious convictions whatsoever, but are tolerant of those who do; and (c) they at least set up a decent education system which, hopefully, will produce free-thinkers who can vote for who they want to represent them. Then, and only then, might we get a settled Afghanistan.
Zack Pandor, UK
I look at some of the American comments on here with despair. "Our friends the Northern Alliance" - for goodness sake, these people are TERRORISTS, they are just as bad as the Taliban, and for that matter the IRA as well. What have all three got in common? They have all been funded by the good old US of A. Why is there terrorism? I'll tell you why, it's because of the American funding of crazed factions as and when it suits them.
Tim Brown, London, UK
This is the right time for the UN to show its willingness in helping the Afghanistan people. The UN should immediately move in Kabul and set up a temporary government composed of all the different tribes living in Afghanistan and don't rely on the Northern Alliance and its troops. The UN should bring into Afghanistan troops from only neutral Muslim countries. These troops should disarm the Northern Alliance soldiers who actually need proper education in human rights and behaviour. There should be no troops from US or UK in the country since these two countries have been engaged in war and killed innocent Afghans. This is also to prevent the Afghans from taking revenge and for the respect of the holy month of Ramadan. After a period of six to nine months, the UN could organise a general election in Afghanistan so that the people could chose their own representatives freely and not at gunpoint.
As for the Taleban, one could only say that they are clever people. They have retreated simply to avoid a loss of many lives and for the respect of the holy month of Ramadan. It would have been a major error for the Talebans to conduct any crime during the month of Ramadan, if they are really so called ¿Muslims". But they will attempt to come back after Ramadan. Therefore the UN has to prevent their coming back.
A country can live in peace despite having different tribes. Tanzania has almost 56 tribes and despite this, there is peace in Tanzania - so why not in Afghanistan? Stop the bombing now and let the people of Afghanistan enjoy peace under the leadership of the United Nations.
Christopher Cox, Solihull, UK
SG, Edmonton, Canada
They said the US bombing was not being effective, clearly it was devastatingly effective. They said that the ground war would have been a tough fight lasting years - so far relatively few have been killed in either military from ground fighting and it looks like the Taleban are in retreat. They said that the Afghan citizens hated the US and the northern alliance, when the news clearly shows Afghan citizens celebrating in the streets at their liberation. They say that the US loves to support bad governments. How dare you! The US does not truly "support" any government that is not a democracy. In fact, the US is in the process of destroying a criminal regime even now. There's an opportunity for the liberated people of Afghanistan to rise up and create a truly wonderful government for themselves. If they blow it, don't blame the US.
I believe strongly that US and British forces need to finish the job in Kandahar and do it fast with overwhelming force. I propose bombing the caves and Kandahar for 2 weeks then going in with US, British and friendly Afghan forces to finish the Taliban and Bin Laden's forces. They are talking about regrouping and fighting in the future. We must finish them off now when we have the chance.
If there is no force in Kabul, everyone will rule the city. That is not a good start. If UN and US forces are scared to rule Kabul for now then it is best that Northern Alliance to stay there until a broad-based government is organised. It is also important for people of Afghanistan that broad-base government starts from Tajakistan/Uzbekistan and ends in Kabul.
Afghan in LA, USA
At this time, a reconstruction program involving mine clearance, road building, food and medicine distribution, refugee return and infrastructure repair would be taken on by the UN administration with the cooperation of the militias and under the protection of the foreign military. Democratic governance should be restored from the bottom up, as it has evolved everywhere, not imposed from the top down. Local councils should be instituted, followed by provincial governments and then, eventually, by a national government. By that time, a small, professional and zealot-free Afghan army should have been trained and equipped to maintain order and prevent civil war. The UN and military support can then withdraw.
Such a scheme is rational, logical and eminently workable given that the foreign military is under its own command and not subject to the cumbersome and unsatisfactory UN decision avoidance process. Anyone supposing that Afghanistan is ready for instant democracy is deluding themselves, and attempts to institute it are less than likely to succeed. Time, planning, and commitment of foreign forces and authority will, however, work. There is no reason to suppose that this would not have the support of ordinary Afghans.
Ahmad Abdul Rahim, Canada
Shariq Jamal, Kanpur, India
I think the Taliban are not running scared. It may be a war strategy. They know that they cannot handle the USA and the Northern Alliance at this time. They are waiting for the snow to start falling, as then the US could not continue bombardment and they could start destroying the bases of Northern Alliance.
Now that we've got all these Northern Alliance wanted terrorists together, let's try them for the atrocities they've previously committed and thus free the country for the real Afghan people.
The next step is to use the territory gained by the Northern Alliance as a base to conduct further operations against al-Queda / Taliban. Both Mr Blair and Mr Bush have clearly stated in the last 2 days that Bin Laden is still the no. 1 objective, so I really don't know what those people who claim that we have been diverted from our original task are talking about.
Kirk, Birmingham, UK
With each passing day the objectives of this war against terrorism are becoming increasingly ambiguous. Not only is the West intent on punishing/killing Bin Laden and his followers but perhaps more sinisterly they are prepared to determine the composition of the 'new' Afghanistan government. Once more history seems poised to repeat itself as its likely that today's allies will gradually become a future enemy. When will we learn that this plaster cannot cover the gaping wound caused by irresponsible and unfair foreign policies.
As Afghanistan has many different ethnic groups, none of whom appear to particularly like each other, how about splitting the country up into separate states - a bit like the (not-very) United Kingdom? Failing that, a total occupation of the country by, say, the UN, for a few years until everyone's settled down a bit?
C. A. Baker, USA in Tilburg,Netherlands
The UN needs to play no role at all. All the UN ever does is foul things up badly leading to massive casualties. For example, the safe area at Srebronica and other great testaments to their efficiency at getting innocent civilians killed. One has to wonder where the American troops are in all this because all I see is Northern alliance and British troops. Perhaps were going back to Colonial times.
Did I miss something or was this war supposed to be about eliminating a certain Osama Bin Laden? We are all acting as though the conflict is over because the Northern Alliance has taken Kabul. According to our leaders we only went to war with the Taleban because they were harbouring terrorists. Now that they are out of the way, or at least on the back foot, it must surely be time to send in our ground troops to hunt down Bin Laden and his cronies. It would also help stabilise the country until the UN comes up with an acceptable political solution (which, let's face it, could be a long time coming). If the US and UK don't see this through properly then all those innocent people killed in both the US and Afghanistan will have died for nothing and we will end up with another Iraq.
Ashraf Tokhi, Melbourne Australia
I believe the Allies should pursue the Taleban back to their home base of Kandahar and totally wipe out their military capacity. Catching Osama Bin Laden is the objective of this war, not liberating Kabul.
Things could not have gone better for the US and for Afghanistan in the last 4 days. For the US, astounding progress has been made in ousting the Taleban and thus removing a key base of support for the Al Quaeda terrorists. For much of Afghanistan, the prospect of a winter of misery, death, and destruction has been replaced by the prospect of food and other aid, and nation building.
The Northern Alliance has a very poor human rights record. Most of the inhuman acts after the Soviet era were carried out by them. They are rogues and criminals, and we should not entrust them with the reins of power in Afghanistan. If a broad-based government in Afghanistan under the auspices of UN and UN peace keeping forces are not formed, the whole situation could backlash and lead to more anarchy. I hope the west is not making a terrible mistake.
In response to Anwar: luckily for all of us, democracy does not boil down to a choice between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. The UN, the West and ordinary Afghans must now work together to give that sad country stability, a representative government and a sound economy. It will take years to get it all in place, but it CAN be done. I suggest that we all stop whining and think about what we can do to help Afghanistan.
Some of the comments here simply boggle the mind. People are cheering in the streets shouting "Death to the Taliban" in Kabul. If the people were free to choose- they would certainly not choose the Taliban. There is no confusion among most people in the USA- it is clear that the Taliban has to be eliminated because they harbour the terrorists. Once the Taliban is destroyed, it will be easier to destroy the terrorist network
I want to just point out that the Northern Alliance have a horrific past and I think they are just as responsible for the terror as the Taleban. They started the killing of civilians, the raping, the looting and so on.
With all the talk about forming "a broad based multi-ethnic coalition" government, there has been no consideration whatsoever given to the one group most likely to respect human rights at all times and lead the Afghan people to peace and prosperity, the Afghan women. There are plenty of courageous women in Afghanistan with the articulation, broad world-view, education and leadership ability to participate in this broad-based multi-ethnic coalition government. How is it that the UN can insist on multi-ethnic representation, but then be completely blind to the ongoing and complete exclusion of women from Afghan governance?
Whether or not I support the Northern Alliance's capture of Kabul is irrelevant. They have done it, and they are the only armed force in Afghanistan other than the Taleban. All of the factions in the area that did not put themselves on the line by fighting have no say in the matter. We can only hope that the leaders of the NA have the good sense to set up a fully representative government afterwards. We can only encourage them to do this - god help any UN busybody that shows up and tries to order them about at gunpoint.
Consider this. The Northern Alliance take control of Afghanistan despite popular opposition locally. Finding themselves in no position to hand over Osama Bin Laden they attempt to bolster local support by being defiant to US demands. The US sponsors the Taleban rebels to overthrow the Northern Alliance terrorist regime in Afghanistan. Either that, or it all turns out to be a terrible trap, the Taleban troops wait until the US ground troops move into Kabul for a TV victory, then trap them there for eight years like they did to the Russians. Either way terrorist activity continues in the rest of the world, especially because western governments have redefined all opposition as terrorism.
Craig Walters, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
The US should be very careful about the Northern Alliance. Remember that America supported Saddam Hussein and the Taleban in the past. Any government that the US sets up will be deeply mistrusted by many of the ethnic groups within Afghanistan. I see two options: let the exiled king lead a council comprised of Pashtuns, Uzbeks and others with a population to council seats ratio, or let the war take its ultimate course, after the removal of Bin Laden, resulting perhaps in a division of Afghanistan into two separate countries.
I am not sure why everyone is saying that the US has supported the Taleban in the past. The Taliban was formed in 1994 long after the Russians left Afghanistan. Its primary supporter was Pakistani military intelligence who was attempting to install a friendly neighbour.
It seems like another botched job to me. I supposed we'll end up with the opposing sides entrenched in their own ethnic regions, fighting a long drawn out guerrilla war, and then a messy Balkan-style international headache, at best. By the way, what happened to Osama Bin Laden? Perhaps Bush has forgotten his name.
The Pashtuns may be the majority, but the Northern Alliance are not just a bunch of warlords, but representatives of the multiethnic diversity of Afghanistan. Admittedly not the most pleasant by western standards, but then again the Taleban and Pashtuns are no better. So which is the lesser of two evils? At least the Northern Alliance do not export terrorism. As for the Pakistani dictator, maybe he should recall all the Pakistanis fighting with the Taleban
The Allied nations need to airlift Turkish, US or British troops into Kabul as quickly as possible to bolster the police forces that have moved into the city. This is necessary to maintain the security. Once secure then the UN and other aid agencies could move in to meet the immediate needs of the residence and to re-establish aid to rural refugees.
Whatever happened to capturing Bin Laden? The main motto of the war now seems to be to end the Taleban regime and form another government.
Vijay Rajanala's comment is spot on. A month ago, the reason for attacking the Taleban was to unearth Osama Bin Laden and dismantle the al-Qaeda network. The priorities now appear to have shifted. Today we're apparently hell-bent on exterminating the Taleban and installing in Afghanistan a government of our choosing. If he's not actually laughing his socks off, Bin Laden must be highly relieved that we were so readily diverted from the original task.
Neil Fellowes, Great Yarmouth, United Kingdom
Given that the Northern alliance are fighting our ground war for us it seems only fair that they should have the fruits of victory namely the capture of Kabul. The Northern Alliance may not have a western understanding of human rights but in the towns so far liberated their regime seems far more enlightened then the Taleban - i.e. Women are no longer required to wear the veil, men are not forced to have beards and music is allowed in public places. But more importantly they are enemies of Osama Bin Laden so from our point of view having them in power would be a great help in the war against the terrorism. The only way we are entitled to more of a say in the running of the ground war is if we commit our own ground troops.
Northern Alliance forces should forge ahead and seize Kabul before the Taleban can reform their defences and before Ramadan.
I think trying to take over Kabul without any US backing means they might receive little or no assistance in trying to establish a broad-based government which the people of Afghanistan are hopefully waiting, After all they won't build their economy from the rubble that's now falling rain
Although seizing Kabul is of symbolic significance, the more important task is to destroy the Taleban's capability to wage war. The Northern Alliance should exploit its breakthrough with a determined pursuit aimed at destroying the enemy. With Taleban's war fighting capability destroyed, Kabul, Kandahar and other key places can be occupied at leisure. Now is not the time to pull punches.
We should encircle Kabul but not take it. What is now needed in Afghanistan is a broad-based and representative government. Our Northern Alliance allies have themselves said that they will not take Kabul, so there need not be any disagreement between the members of the global alliance against terrorism. The main thing is to hunt down and bring justice to al Qaeda and the Taleban... this process should continue relentlessly.
The Northern alliance are getting carried away by their victories but what they have to realise is that these cities have been lost and won again by the Taleban in the past. The Taleban are preparing for a major counter offensive which I think with or without the help of the US the Northern Alliance will not only retreat but will also face heavy casualties. President Bush in a way is right but then again if they hold on then it means giving more time to the Taleban to prepare for an offensive. Its not going to be an easy fight and I still believe we will be talking on the same issues for years to come as I think there is a long and fierce war ahead.
They can sure try. Now is the responsibility of the US to stop the bombardment of the Taleban, so that they can all have a level battlefield. May the best men win.
The Taleban should be wiped off the face of the earth. Bush is being too cautious in urging the Northern Alliance not to take Kabul. He should be going for an all out victory.
What is Mr Bush going to do if the Northern Alliance ignore his advice not to take Kabul? Bomb them as well for not doing as they were told?
Thomas Bratcher, USA
Seizing Kabul should be among the last priorities of the Alliance. Not because of the politics, but because of the realities. The city should be surrounded and kept under pressure, but the more land the Alliance gains all around Afghanistan, the easier it will be to capture the capital.
Bush has far too much power - he should leave these decisions for the military leaders. In my opinion, we need to advance on Kabul and fight this war to the end. Bush is a good speaker to the US people, but as far as decision making, he needs to step back and watch from the sidelines.
To Will Faulkner, UK: Bush has a constitutional obligation to act as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. There are no "sidelines" for him to stand behind!
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