After the Taliban

Could a Coalition Government Withstand Afghan Rivalries?

If Pakistan has its way, this will never happen. When the Northern Alliance commanders were in power, they took aid and advisers from India, Pakistan's arch-rival. The alliance leadership is not Pashtun, the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan and in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier province. Pakistan is pushing for inclusion of Pashtun Taliban deserters in any new government, hoping this will sate the anger of the Pakistani Pashtuns who have caused major recent disturbances. "We would never accept any non-Pashtun government," says Dr. Anwar Khan. "We have been fighting since time immemorial for this. My grandfather sold his house and went to fight against the British [in Afghanistan] to reestablish a Pashtun government."

Critics of the Northern Alliance also question its human rights record. An Afghani U.N. worker who has worked for years in Northern Alliance-controlled territory describes their legacy as, "rape, rape, rape, and extortion." She tells of numerous cases where the alliance has come into towns and begun wholesale attacks on women. And, she says, "everywhere we went, every aid convoy, every trip we took, they were there blocking the road, extorting money to let us pass. They are thieves."

Pir Syed Ahmad Gailani, a former mujahideen leader, at a press conference
Photograph by Michael Kamber
Pir Syed Ahmad Gailani, a former mujahideen leader, at a press conference

The problem now facing the U.S. is that neither the Northern Alliance nor any other one group is acceptable to all the factions. Yet experts say there is no escaping Afghanistan's long political history—democracy is a foreign concept. "There can be no coalition government, no broad-based government," says Yusufzai, the editor. "That is so much fancy talk. There has to be a dominant group governing the country."

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