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Fighting Eases in Afghan Town

BY Admin  February 4, 2002 at 4:37 PM EST

Delegates from the interim Afghan government were unable to secure a peace agreement and interim leader Hamid Karzai has ordered each side to send delegates to Kabul for further talks.

The fighting started Wednesday after Padshah Khan Zadran, the newly appointed governor, entered the city. Despite the mandate from Kabul, members of the town’s tribal council declared their support for rival warlord Haji Saifullah and forced out Zadran and his supporters.

As many as 400 prisoners remain in the mainly ethnic Pashtun city, along with the pickup trucks the Zadran forces used to bring in their troops. Both sides have nominated delegates to discuss the exchange of people and equipment, but there is no word that any agreements have been reached.

“We will trade these men if [Padshah Khan Zadran] goes away,” a commander fighting for Saifullah told the Washington Post yesterday, but “if he insists on coming to Gardez, we will continue to resist.”

Relations between Zadran and Saifullah have been bad for many months. Saifullah accuses Zadran of giving the U.S. information that led to air strikes on a tribal convoy headed to Kabul for Karzai’s inauguration in December.

U.S. warplanes have circled above the region during the fighting, but both the U.S. and Karzai have refrained from using force.

Afghan officials have looked on the violence with trepidation, aware that instability could effect how long wealthy nations, like the United States, wait before helping the war-torn nation rebuild.

In Kabul, interim Interior Minister Yunus Qanuni said the government is optimistic that the situation can be resolved.

“We have a delegation talking to the parties and we hope by tomorrow those problems will be resolved,” he told a news conference. “I am very sure that what happened in Gardez will not be replicated in other parts of the country. There was foreign interference in the dispute, which I am sure is now under control.”

The battles also complicate U.S. efforts to eliminate remaining al-Qaida and Taliban fighters left in the surrounding Paktia province.