Alliance, U.S. not in agreement
By Joe Baker
By Joe Baker
As the U.S. closes in on the presumed location of Osama bin Laden in southeast Afghanistan, strains are becoming apparent in its relations with the Northern Alliance, according to The Times of India.
The Times said the U.S. has been unable to contain the Alliance, which is in control of three-fourths of the country and is doing all it can to succeed the Taliban in Kabul.
The administration, said The Times, has warned the Alliance not to push its luck. Senior administration officials have said it is important to stick to the plan for a broad-based government that would include the dominant Pashtun faction which the Taliban claim to represent.
But the strains of the U.S.-Alliance relationship are surfacing daily. The Times said signs from Kabul have been mixed thus far, but the Alliance has established total control in Kabul and is telling British and American troops to keep their noses out.
At the same time, says The Times, the Alliance is signaling that it is prepared to enter talks to allow the formation of a government aligned with the wishes of the United Nations.
The newspaper said distrust between the Americans and the northern fighters goes back to the beginning of the bombing campaign in October, when Washington, at the behest of the State Department, held back on furnishing arms and air support to Alliance fighters waiting to push into Kabul. Even when the ouster of the Taliban became certain, President Bush, at the urging of the State Department, told the Alliance not to enter Kabul.
The Times said the State Department was trying to address the concerns of its client state, Pakistan, which is opposed to the Alliance, and has backed the Taliban against all odds. The paper said Pakistan raised the image of revenge killings and a fratricidal civil war. It also reminded the U.S. that the northerners were responsible for large-scale opium smuggling that was stopped by the Taliban.
The Times said initial reports, however, did not bear out claims of large-scale reprisals. It said Alliance forces have established fairly orderly systems of government and offered amnesty to surrendering Taliban troops in several spots.
The newspaper said its becoming very obvious that the Alliance does not mean to give up a prominent role in the emerging post-Taliban scene. It said Alliance leaders are beginning to assert their newly-won authority against Western forces in areas they control.
If you are talking about the presence of thousands of fighting troops from outside Afghanistan, this is a major issue which has to be discussed. The events of the past few days showed that the forces which were capable of doing the job on the ground were the forces of the (Alliance), said Abdullah Abdullah, whom The Times described as the regimes putative foreign minister.
Against this backdrop, the U.S. continues efforts to locate bin Laden. Reports that he may have already fled to Pakistan with his wives and children have been greeted with skepticism by the Bush administration.
The newspaper said the U.S. has imposed a total picture over the region, meaning a mix of satellites, drones and ground intelligence that will enable American forces to track any movement on the ground.
The Times reported U.S. officials believe bin Laden is cornered and his days are numbered and that the war is nearly over. But, it noted, Washington insists that the broader anti-terrorism war will continue.