• RAWA's appeal to the UN and World community after the fall of Kabul

  • What will the Northern Alliance do in our name now? I dread to think...
    'Why do we always have this ambiguous, dangerous relationship with our allies?'

    Independent Digital (UK), November 14, 2001

    It wasn't meant to be like this. The nice, friendly Northern Alliance, our very own foot-soldiers in Afghanistan, is in Kabul. It promised – didn't it? – not to enter the Afghan capital. It was supposed to capture, at most, Mazar-i-Sharif and perhaps Herat, to demonstrate the weakness of the Taliban, to show the West that its war aims – the destruction of the Taliban and thus of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida movement – were inevitable.

    The corpse of the old man in the centre of Kabul, executed by our heroes in the Alliance, was not supposed to be on television. Only two days ago, Alastair Campbell's 24-hour Washington-London-Islamabad "communication centre'' was supposed to counter Taliban propaganda. Now Mr Campbell must set up his team of propagandists in Kabul to fight the lies of our very own foot-soldiers of the Northern Alliance.

    It is, of course, richly ironic that the first achievement of the war on terrorism has been to install in Kabul the Northern Alliance, for whom terrorism has been the entire line of business and way of life for more than 20 years.

    Re-enthroning Northern Alliance President Rabbani - who has been fighting against any form of secular modernisation of his country, however moderate, since the early 1970s - was on no one's list of aims on September 12.

    Andrew Murray,
    The Guardian, Nov.16, 2001

    Was it not the US Secretary of State Colin Powell who assured General Musharraf of Pakistan the Alliance would be kept under control, that the United Nations' envoy, Lakhdar Ibrahimi, would be allowed to construct a truly representative government in Kabul to replace the Taliban?

    General Musharraf had promised his support to the United States – at the risk of his nation and his life – in return for American promises that Afghanistan would be governed by a truly representative coalition. Pakistan's air bases, its very support for the "war on terrorism'', was contingent on Washington's word that the Northern Alliance would not take over Kabul and impose its own diktat on Afghanistan.

    Yesterday, the pictures from Kabul were almost identical to the videotapes of April 1992 when the pro-Russians and Communists were defeated. We saw the same jubilation by the non-Pushtu population. And within two days, Hekmatyar Gulbeddin began to bomb the city. The division of ethnic groups plunged the Afghan capital into civil war. Yesterday, the Alliance was supposed to wait on the outskirts of the city while the Americans attempted to construct a workable coalition. But for the present, Afghanistan – without the Taliban – is a country without a government.

    What on earth is going on? And what, for that matter, has happened to Mr bin Laden? Are we driving him into the mountains – always supposing he is not already there – or are we pushing him into the tribal areas of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan? For without a city, the Taliban themselves will melt back into their birthplace, the madrassa schools along the Pakistan border which created the puritan, obscurantist spirit which has inspired the rulers of Afghanistan these past five years.

    The Northern Alliance is advancing, meanwhile, with all its baggage of massacres and looting and rape intact. We have so idolised these gunmen, been so infatuated with them, supported them so unquestioningly, pictured them on television so deferentially that we are now immune to their history. So, perhaps, are they.

    "But it remains a fact that from 1992 to 1996, the Northern Alliance was a symbol of massacre, systematic rape and pillage. Which is why we - and I include the US State Department - welcomed the Taliban when they arrived in Kabul. The Northern Alliance left the city in 1996 with 50,000 dead behind it. Now its members are our foot soldiers. Better than Mr bin Laden, to be sure. But what - in God's name- are they going to do in our name?"

    The Independent (UK), November 14, 2001

    General Rashid Dostum, our hero now that he has recaptured Mazar-i-Sharif, is in the habit of punishing his soldiers by tying them to tank tracks and then driving the tanks around his barracks' square to turn them into mincemeat. You wouldn't have thought this, would you, when you heard the jubilant reports of General Dostum's victory on Monday night?

    Nor would you have thought, listening to the reports from Afghanistan yesterday, that the Northern Alliance was responsible for more than 80 per cent of the drug exports from the country in the aftermath of the Taliban's prohibition of drug cultivation. I have a ghostly memory of writing this story before, not about the Taliban but about the KLA in Kosovo, a guerrilla army which was partly funded by drugs and which, once its political aspirations had been met by Nato's occupation of the Serbian province went on to become "terrorists'' (our former Foreign Secretary's memorable description) inside Macedonia. True, Nato's wheel of fortune moves in mysterious ways but it's not difficult to understand how our allies – praised rather than controlled – follow their own agenda.

    Why, I wonder, do we always have this ambiguous, dangerous relationship with our allies? For decades, we accepted the received wisdom that the "B" specials were a vital security arm of the Northern Ireland authorities on the grounds that they "knew the territory" – just as, I fear, we rely upon the Northern Alliance because it "knows the land".

    The Israelis relied upon their Phalangist militia thugs in Lebanon because the Christian Maronites hated the Palestinians. The Nazis approved of their Croatian Ustashi murderers in 1941 because the Ustashi hated the Serbs.

    Is this, I ask myself, why the Northern Alliance is our friend? Not because it is a loyal ally but because it hates the Taliban? Not because it opposes poverty and destitution and the destruction of Afghanistan under an Islamic regime but because it says it loathes Osama bin Laden?

    But it remains a fact that from 1992 to 1996, the Northern Alliance was a symbol of massacre, systematic rape and pillage. Which is why we – and I include the US State Department – welcomed the Taliban when they arrived in Kabul. The Northern Alliance left the city in 1996 with 50,000 dead behind it. Now its members are our foot soldiers. Better than Mr bin Laden, to be sure. But what – in God's name– are they going to do in our name?

    Our friends in the North are just as treacherous and murderous
    'When our Northern Alliance boys go on a killing spree, we have to take responsibility'

    Independent Digital (UK), November 19, 2001
    Robert Fisk

    When the Iranian army massed on the western border of Afghanistan in 1998 and prepared to storm across the frontier to avenge the Taliban slaughter of its diplomats – and its Afghan allies – in Mazar-i-Sharif, it received a message from the Taliban leadership in Kandahar.

    "You will decide the date of your invasion," came the two-sentence communiquι from Mullah Omar's men. "We will decide the date of your departure." The Iranians wisely held their fire. It may have been a reply from the Taliban – but it was a very Afghan reply. The US and Britain – or the "coalition" as we are constrained to call them – are now getting similar treatment. The Northern Alliance watched the American bombers clear the road to Kabul. They were grateful. Then they drove into Kabul and now they are asking the British to leave. Poor old Jack Straw had trouble contacting the Afghan foreign minister to sort things out. The Afghan satellite phone was not switched on. You bet it wasn't.

    The mystery is why we ever expected these people to obey us. Afghan rules don't work that way. Ethnic groups and tribes and villagers don't take orders from foreigners. They do deals. The West wanted to use the Northern Alliance as its foot-soldiers in Afghanistan. The Alliance wanted to use the American bombers to help it occupy the capital. For the Tajiks and Uzbeks and Hazaras, it was all very straightforward. They destroy the Taliban – and then take over Afghanistan, or as much as they can swallow. And if they indulge in a little revenge here and there – 500 or 600 Pakistani fighters massacred in a bloodbath at Mazar, a possible human rights atrocity in the making in Kunduz – what's so surprising?

    Even now, faced with the bitter fruits of our coalition with the Northern Alliance, we are reacting with an odd replay of our Bosnian adventure: calling for restraint while at the same time reminding the world that the Afghans are a warlike, cruel people.

    As the Alliance gunmen prepare to storm into Kandahar, Mr Blair calls for "restraint". Yet the western media are now set upon informing their readers and viewers that nothing more than a massacre could have been expected of our foot-soldiers. An Irish journalist came on the line to me last week with a familiar complaint. Wasn't I being a bit finicky, getting upset about a little slaughter in Mazar? Weren't the Afghans steeped in age-old traditions of warfare? Wasn't it a bit much to be asking the Afghans to behave in a civilised way?

    I tried to remind my interviewer that Afghanistan's civilisation predated Ireland's – and indeed much of Europe's – and that the missiles, tanks, artillery pieces and rocket-propelled grenades with which the Afghans were destroying each other had been provided by the civilised outside powers. Hadn't I listened to this same nonsense about "age old traditions of warfare" peddled by the British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind when he was trying to wash his hands of Bosnia?

    10,000 killed in 8 months in Kabul

    November 28, 1993: Felix Ermacora in his report to the UN General Assembly's third committee and also during an interview with journalists, said during the past eight months more than 10,000 people had been killed in Kabul.

    In his report Ermacora noted that in Kabul some 36,000 houses had been partly or fully destroyed and more than 30,000 damaged. Approximately 110,000 families had been displaced and thousands of persons killed or wounded during the battles in and around the city, he said.

    "Numerous cases of rape and ill-treatment by armed persons have been reported.", he said. "A reliable source said that women have never been treated in Afghanistan with such a lack of respect as in recent months".

    The threat to the right to life "has been characterised by massacres of all Afghans, regardless of their ethnic background,", he said.

    The Frontier Post, November 28, 1993

    The real point, however, is that we cannot adopt someone's army as our own and then deny responsibility for its behaviour. We didn't allow the Germans to do that after the Second World War. And when our Northern Alliance boys go on a killing spree, we have to take responsibility for the bloodshed that results.

    Take the case of Kunduz. More than 50 US planes have been bombarding the Taliban lines around the area in a deliberate attempt to break the morale of the defenders and allow the Northern Alliance gunmen to capture the district.

    The Alliance has given the Taliban a deadline. It's pretty clear what will happen if the Taliban ignore that deadline. They are going to be killed in cold blood. I hope this is not true. I fear it is. But are we going to shrug our shoulders when the knives come out? Are we going to admit we helped the Alliance to gain the upper hand but then eschew all interest in the results? Isn't there even a faint, horrible parallel with Osama bin Laden? If he merely inspired murderers to commit the crimes against humanity of 11 September, surely he was guilty of the death of 5,000 people. But if we facilitate Alliance murderers, it seems we are innocent of the crime.

    Meanwhile, outside Kabul, the familiar Northern Alliance anarchy is falling into place. The warlords of Jalalabad are feuding over who rules which part of Nangahar province. The Pashtu tribal leaders around Kandahar are threatening to fight the Northern Alliance. Hazara elements of the alliance are threatening their Tajik and Uzbek comrades if they do not receive a sufficient share of power in Kabul.

    Amid all this, in clops the poor old UN donkey, dragged into the pit to undertake the most impossible task ever faced by statesmen in the history of the modern world: to sort out Afghanistan. Would the Alliance please be kind enough to allow the Pashtuns to have a proportionate share in the government? Could we have a few moderate Taliban – perhaps with shorter beards – in a broad-based administration? I can just see the Afghan delegates to these talks when they hear the phrase broad-based. Broad-based?

    The only broad-based phenomenon the Afghans know about are ceasefires. And even then, only for Afghans. The most sinister element of the Kunduz ceasefire offer is that it only applies to Pashtuns – not to foreign (ie Arab) fighters – trapped in the area. They, presumably, are to be massacred or – in the chilling words of a BBC reporter with the Alliance yesterday – "given no quarter".

    My own experience of armies that give no quarter is that they intend to commit war crimes – as has already happened in Mazar – and that this will only stiffen the resolve of those men who escape the bloodbath. For it is worth remembering the moral basis upon which we are prosecuting this war. This is, remember, a war "for civilisation". It is a war for "democracy". It is a war of "good against evil". It is a war in which "you are either for us or against us".

    So when we see the pictures of the next massacre, let's ask ourselves whose side we are on. On the side of the victims or the murderers? And if the side of good happens to coincide with the side of the murderers, what does that make us? We're hearing a lot about the Allied success in the war. But the war has only just begun.


  • Photos
  • Crimes of the "Northern Alliance" Seen Through the Eyes of a Grieving Mother
  • No surprise at rumours of new atrocities by our 'foot-soldiers'
  • We are the war criminals now
  • Many Afghans haunted by Northern Alliance's past
  • Fall of Kabul Could Lead to a Bloodbath, Officials Warn
  • Hundreds of Pakistanis believed massacred
  • UN Reports Mazar-e-Sharif Executions
  • Kabul residents fear northern alliance, worry for their safety Kabul

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