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ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: There are many groups vying for power in Afghanistan.
The Northern Alliance ruled the country until it was driven out of Kabul by the Taliban in 1996. Its titular leader, Burhannudin Banni, is still recognized by the U.N. as the Afghan president.
Allied with him are three guerrilla groups: An ethnic Uzbek force, led by General Abdul Rashid Dustum; a predominantly Tajik group that was led by General Ahmed Shah Massoud until he was killed last month; and a smaller group made up mainly of Hazaras.
These groups, plus Pashtun leaders in the South and others, are working to pull together a grand council known as a “Loya Jirga,” which would then form a transition government.
The former king of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, who is in exile in Rome, is part of this effort.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And with me to discuss the anti- Taliban opposition are Ashraf Ghani, a native of Afghanistan who taught at Kabul University. He is now adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins; Haron Amin — a spokesman and Washington representative for the Northern Alliance; and Qayum Karzai who is an Afghan citizen and the founder of “Afghans for Civil Society,” which seeks to promote inter-Afghan dialog. His family has been hosting meetings of Afghan tribal leaders in Quetta, Pakistan.
And, Qayum Karzai, before we go into details about the efforts to build an alternative government, are you getting reports similar to those we just heard in the ITN reports?
QAYUM KARZAI: Yes, there are reports coming to us that the Taliban forces are deserting the city and there is even a report that the Taliban governor has left the city….
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You’re talking about Kandahar now, that city?
QAYUM KARZAI: Yes, Kandahar. That left Kandahar and went to the western district, and another report is that there are civilian refugees that have left Kandahar and are returning back to the city judging that the attack is designed against the extreme forces and the civilians will be spared from the attack.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Ashraf Ghani, what are you hearing from your sources?
ASHRAF GHANI: It’s a series of movements across the Pashtun built from southern to eastern Afghanistan, men who are leaders of fifty to one thousand men in groups are making decisions to distance themselves from the Taliban.
Also in areas where they were seen much more as conquerors rather than having a local base, people are really distancing themselves.
The critical question, however, is that they are simultaneously posing as champions of nationalism today, and it requires a group of leaders to articulate that it’s an alternative group and not the Taliban that represent the nation that would be critical in the next phases, and that depends on having a very clear political road map.
The military action, unfortunately, is not being accompanied as yet by clear political road map, and that is still causing some anxieties.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I’ll come back to that, Mr. Ghani. And, Haron Amin, what can you add to the report that we had from the Northern Alliance?
HARON AMIN: There has been a defection today around Talibafax, which connects into Northern Afghanistan, the main highway of some 40 commanders that have altogether with them some 1200 fighters. They have defected.
There was also reports of uprising in Zaran, which is in the western part of the country. But earlier last week, there was also defection of some 800 people in Badris, as well as some 200 people in the eastern parts Afghanistan. Overall there are clear signs of Taliban disarray.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Staying with you, Haron Amin, let’s get into some of the questions Mr. Ghani was beginning to raise, from the point of view of the Northern Alliance what’s the current status of the efforts to form some kind of a grouping that could win the alliance of a broad range of Afghans if the Taliban falls?
HARON AMIN: Well, we have been over the years requesting that some sort of political dialogue ought to continue regardless, and in our attempt to try to have the Taliban even in the talks we have attempted to somehow go through some sort of national reconciliation. But, of course, given that theirs was an agenda that had cross-border links that that was never feasible.
As of now we had a delegation that was sent to Rome, had held extensive talks with the former monarch of Afghanistan, King Zahir Shah. To come back to Afghanistan in the post Taliban era and head what’s known as Loya Jirga or the traditional Afghan assembly that would get all the various factions or various segments of Afghan society to come together.
There were two points to the agreement. One was that there would be some council of unity, that council of unity would be comprised of 120 people and at least Rome has finished s homework in sense that it has nominated its members to the National Unity Council. Our delegation recently arrived in Kabul is holding currently talks with the Supreme Council of the United Front. Hopefully that will be made available.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Haron Amin, what will the Northern Alliance do now can you answer the question that was raised in the ITN report, is the Northern Alliance awaiting for some kind of word to march on Kabul or will it not march on Kabul at this point?
HARON AMIN: Well, remember, that we still believe, we initially asked for coordination between the attacks, the air raids into Afghanistan, so that when the right time comes when the Taliban military installations or military infrastructure has been decimated that we would take the initiative then. Of course it would be coordinated, but our intention is not to take over Kabul even though, although it seems to be seen as to what developments will follow, but one thing that needs to be addressed as of now is a premature collapse of the Taliban and some sort of political set-up to somehow look into that.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Quayam Karzai, explain what’s happening in the South and, in Quetta with your family and go into some detail. What is happening actually? How are people brought together, where do they meet, that sort of thing?
QAYUM KARZAI: Well,….
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I should say that your brother is a former deputy minister. Your father has been part of the tribal council structure for a long time, right?
QAYUM KARZAI: Yes. I think it is very important that we should think that in this part of equation, which is peace-making, the traditional Afghan political framework of Loya Jirga is paramount.
In this, the tribal leaders trying to create the consensus as to how to mobilize the Afghan people ad how to sit down and forge peace. It is in this context that people in the southern Afghanistan inside the country as well as in Quetta and other cities in Afghanistan are mobilizing to do that.
However, the question that Mr. Amin addressed is a very important question. That is the second part of the equation is peace keeping. I think for peacekeeping you need different skills and institution-building and civil- society building and economic reconstruction. For that, I think the staying power of the international community to stay in Afghanistan and help the Afghan people is a very important thing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I just want to get more specific though about what’s happening in your own family house right now. I gather that because Pashtun- speaking people are the majority of the country in your family comes from that group, right, that you’re bringing, your family is bringing people in order to get them to form a grand council at some point? Is that what’s happening?
QAYUM KARZAI: Yes. People are… It is also very important that there is still, regardless of how much trouble we have in Afghanistan, there is still certain social and political decorum in Afghanistan that one does not speak about the solution in ethnic terms.
So national unity remains the paramount prerequisite for the peace making as well as for the peacekeeping in Afghanistan. I might say that, yes, a lot of people are now mobilizing. I think the Taliban are losing their grip on the people, and they’re mobilizing to see if they can put together this political framework of Loya Jirga to address the question of peace.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ashraf Ghani, back to you and the points you were making. The political process is too far behind the military process. Is that your view at this point?
ASHRAF GHANI: Yes, it is, because military action was not welcomed by most Afghan groups. They were taken aback by it because the consensus that is required to pick up the pieces after the Taliban have been scattered is really not in place.
Secondly, the commitment of the international community to the reconstruction of Afghanistan is still in generalities rather than in specific forms like a trust fund to which major commitment would be made to give the Afghan people a sense that this commitment would be there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me interrupt you one second. When you say the pieces are not in place. What is in place and what isn’t?
ASHRAF GHANI: What is in place is the beginning of the dialogue with the former king and the relationship between Northern Alliance and the king. But the rest of the Afghan population is still not in this process.
Secondly, the role to be played by the United Nations is still not in high gear, and the administration is as yet not made any arrangements to address the critical question of how security will be… security arrangements would be made for Kabul because if the Northern Alliance actually conquers Kabul, it would be a recipe potentially for a new civil war.
Kabul’s security really needs to be protected and the military forces need to be kept outside the parameters of the city in order to give the new government a space of peace from which to spread their efforts.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Haron Amin, I’ll come to you in minute to respond to that but I want to ask Mr. Ghani one other question.
Where is the king now? I mean he’s north of Rome. What is he doing? Is he in radio addresses to the country? What is his relationship to this home effort now?
ASHRAF GHANI: He’s rather silent, which again is posing a problem and is giving the Taliban actually the opportunity to claim that they are speaking for the nation.
This is one of those periods where he and others really need to take an active effort to reaching towards the Afghans via the radios and other means of communication to really start articulating a program as to what are the next steps, how they’re going to be carried and what his role– again which is largely being referred to as a symbolic role– would actually be and how he would be a center of unity and not further divisions.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Haron Amin, on that and on what Mr. Ghani said right before that.
HARON AMIN: I can say that definitely there are… There are multi-faceted problems that is on the ground right now.
One is, like I mentioned earlier, a premature collapse of Taliban. What happens in the event? We have credible information on the ground right now that some of the members of the Taliban are showing their allegiance or declaring their allegiance to the chief of Islami that rained rockets into Kabul City — in fact in 1992, prior to the collapse of the communist regime, was able to infiltrate into the city with the help of the communist Ministry of Interior and was able to create much trouble.
He is back in the picture again. Given in light of this and then again a collapse of the Taliban that there needs to be something thought of right now politically before the grand assembly or the traditional Loya Jirga would be in place.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now there is a U.N. representative in Afghanistan. Is that right?
HARON AMIN: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what role should that person be playing?
HARON AMIN: Well the role that the U.N. Special — or the Secretary General’s special envoy for Afghanistan should play is one in a capacity as the special envoy and hopefully through the United Nations.
But I would say that that person has a lot of work to do between now and this coming weekend, I presume, in consulting both in Washington since most of the strikes are occurring with the allied or the coalition forces predominantly by American forces so that needs to be well thought prior.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Qayum Karzai, briefly, in the few seconds we have left, what do you think the U.N. should be doing and do you have any final words for us?
QAYUM KARZAI: I think the most important thing that we must remember that the problem in Afghanistan is not of the Afghan making, and we believe that in this critical time the U.N. should make sure that in this case in particularly that Pakistan has a hands-off policy of Afghanistan and they should not be leveraging to forge an Afghan government, a government that is based on self-determination after the Afghan people is the best alternative for the stability of the region.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you all three very much for being with us.