[TODAY]Capture of Kabul Is a Troubling Event

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[TODAY]Capture of Kabul Is a Troubling Event

According to the logic of war, the Northern Alliance's capture of Kabul and the ouster of the Taliban regime were only a matter of time. Thanks to air raids and support from the special forces of the United States and Britain, Northern Alliance troops had already been at the doorstep of the Afghan capital.

For the United States and the international coalition, the attack on Afghanistan is merely an initial step in the greater war against terrorism. Their priority was to form a government that could rule Afghanistan effectively rather than capturing Kabul. This is why the United States was reluctant to allow the Northern Alliance to take over the capital. As the Northern Alliance moves on to Kabul despite warnings from the United States and the international coalition, whether its advance will cause trouble in the war against terrorism concerns many people. The Northern Alliance is not fit to rule Afghanistan effectively; it has a history of misrule.

The crimes committed by the Northern Alliance after it kicked out the Soviet puppet regime in 1992 and ruled central Afghanistan until 1996 are said to be comparable to those committed by Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic in Kosovo and Bosnia. For the Pashtun, who make up the majority of the population in Kabul, the presence of unrestrained forces of the Northern Alliance means a repeat of that nightmare.

The Northern Alliance is composed mainly of Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras. They turned Afghanistan into a state of anarchy for four years until losing to the Taliban in 1996. They raped women, punished people without trials, engaged in torture, and looted private property. Commander Ahmad Massoud, a Tajik who was leading the military branch of the Northern Alliance, was assassinated in September, and Commander Abdul Palawan, an Uzbek who massacred 3,000 Taliban fighters in Mazar-i-Sharif in 1997, should rather be turned over to a war crimes tribunal. Leaving the Northern Alliance to rule Afghanistan is like turning the clock back to 1992 and may instigate yet another civil war. Judging from the track records of the Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara leaders of the Northern Alliance, there is no guarantee that they will not engage in cruel revenge, possibly ethnic cleansing, against the Pashtun.

This is why there is an international consensus that the next Afghan government should be composed of representatives of those three peoples as well as representatives of Pashtuns who did not join the Taliban government. What is preventing the formation of such a government is an age-old political problem: The interested parties say they agree on the principles but say no to the details.

Russia and Iran, which support the Northern Alliance, do not think it necessary to maintain a balance among the four peoples of Afghanistan in the next government, but they are prepared to make concessions in view of world opinion and their relations with the United States. Pakistan, which has more than 10 million Pashtuns in its population, cannot accept an Afghan government that excludes the Pashtun. Yielding to any other international consensus could even threaten General Musharraf's government.

While President George W. Bush tied the Northern Alliance's hands, the United Nations chief envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, conducted negotiations to arrange a broadly-based coalition government. The Northern Alliance's entry into Kabul could not only complicate political negotiations for the formation of the next Afghan government, but also could interfere with the alliance between the U.S.-led international front and the Northern Alliance. That could result in helping their common enemy. If a pan-national government were in power in Kabul, the alliance could move toward its longer-range goals in the rest of the country to crush the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Qaida organization.

The war against terrorism will not end with the ouster from Kabul of the Taliban and the destruction of the terrorist network. The haven of terrorism should be eradicated. In Afghanistan, where the sense of national identity is not strong, poverty and a lack of education amid the semi-nomadic peoples breeds religious extremism. Mr. bin Laden and other greedy power-seekers take advantage of that.

The retreat of the Taliban from Kabul is only the beginning of the beginning of the destruction of the Taliban regime and the terrorist network. The Northern Alliance's seizure of Kabul damages the justification and moral ground of the war against terrorism. The Northern Alliance, an amalgamation of local warlords, is not an alternative to the Taliban. If the United States tacitly allowed the Northern Alliance to take over Kabul, the act was one of betrayal to the international coalition.


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The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Young-hie

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