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U.S. Looks for Someone to Trust

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Abdul Haq, the opposition leader killed Friday by the Taliban, may have been attempting to foment a coup d’état against the extremist Afghan regime. Boosted by quiet backing from the U.S., Haq had been working with local tribes on behalf of the former Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah, who has emerged as the figurehead of a still-forming coalition government. The idea was to crack and eventually topple the Taliban from within.

“Abdul Haq was betrayed and executed yesterday and the deal was set back,” Sherafat, a reporter from the Afghan News Agency in Peshawar, Pakistan, told the Voice.

One well-placed source in the Northern Alliance, which has been warring with the Taliban for years, blamed Haq’s death on the Pakistani intelligence service. Many members of that agency, the I.S.I., are reported to have close ties with the Taliban—despite Pakistan’s pledge of support for the U.S. campaign. “The commander Abdul Haq was captured and executed by the Taliban because the I.S.I. betrayed him,” the Northern Alliance official said. “Any efforts against the Taliban could be destroyed because of the network of the I.S.I. and fundamentalist groups.”

Haq’s killing—and the Northern Alliance’s blaming of Pakistan—strikes at the heart of the coalition the U.S. has been trying to build. The countries involved have age-old and contemporary reasons to eye each other with suspicion. Currently, the Northern Alliance continues talk of seizing Kabul from the Taliban, over U.S. and Pakistani objections. Pakistan would like to see any replacement government include the so-called moderate Taliban, because they might secure Pakistan’s interests in the region. With the Northern Alliance and its backers Iran, Russia, and India firmly opposed to that notion, efforts to form a solid grouping have reached an impasse.

As social unrest boils up in Afghan’s neighboring countries—police in Iran claim to have arrested 2000 people in protests that broke out after a soccer game Sunday—the various sides are preparing for a weekend summit in Istanbul, organized by Turkey. In particular, they’re watching for signs of a cemented arrangement between the former Afghan king and the Northern Alliance.

Even that point is tricky, with anti-monarchists in Iran resistant to the reemergence of the Afghan king. Ravam Farhadi, the Northern Alliance’s ambassador to the United Nations, tried to smooth the way. “Our shah is not like the Persian shah,” Farhadi said. “He is a very modest man, unlike the Persian king, who was quite arrogant. That is why the two people have different attitudes toward their kings.”

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