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NORTHERN ALLIANCE

Will the Northern Alliance Splash Blood on U.S. Hands?

November 13, 2001

Events are unfolding so rapidly in Afghanistan that as soon as I write a few paragraphs and check the news wires, what I've written has become obsolete.  Here goes again:

The Taliban have apparently withdrawn from the Afghan capital of Kabul and Northern Alliance forces have entered the city.

That's great news in the sense that it puts the ultimate defeat of the Taliban that much closer, and it means additional multitudes of Afghan civilians have been liberated from oppressive Taliban rule.

The problem is, most observers felt the Northern Alliance should not enter the city by itself.  Many elements of the Northern Alliance have a terrible human rights record. 

More specifically, the last time the Northern Alliance took over Kabul, widespread atrocities followed.  The citizens of Kabul are reported to hate the Northern Alliance even more than the Taliban, if that is possible. 

Already there are unconfirmed reports from U.N. officials of summary executions and abductions of civilians in Mazar-i-Sharif, which the Northern Alliance just took over.  It's not clear who are the perpetrators and who are the victims.

The New York Times has just reported that Northern Alliance forces summarily executed Taliban prisoners and engaged in widespread looting in an area under their control about 10 miles north of Kabul.  As the reporter dryly put it:

The killings here suggested that alliance soldiers might prove difficult to control as their victories build.

Were any Northern Alliance forces to commit atrocities in Kabul, that could precipitate a rallying of the Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan to the Taliban, making defeating the Taliban infinitely more difficult that it would otherwise have been. 

The Northern Alliance is made up primarily of ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks, so even without any atrocities, the Pashtuns may well feel threatened enough simply by the Northern Alliance presence in Kabul to cause the Pashtuns to rally to the Taliban.

Many military analysts believe that in the best of circumstances at least a division of U.S. forces will be needed to achieve victory against the Taliban in their stronghold of Kandahar.  Were the Pashtun population there to vigorously support the Taliban, that would increase the requirement for U.S. troops and undoubtedly increase U.S. casualties.

Moreover, any innocent blood spilled by the Northern Alliance is also blood on U.S. hands.

Northern Alliance Is Beholden to the U.S.

Before the Afghan War started, the Northern Alliance controlled somewhere between 5-10% of the country, and they were being slowly squeezed out of the rest by the Taliban.  It is beyond doubt that the only reason the Northern Alliance is enjoying its current string of successes is because of the effect of sustained U.S. bombing on the Taliban, as well as new weapons, equipment and supplies just received by the Northern Alliance from our country and allies.

As the enablers of the Northern Alliance, we're responsible for what they do.

We can't enable an army and then disavow the consequences.

Remember the Sabra and Chatilla massacre?  General Ariel Sharon, commander of Israeli forces who had invaded Lebanon in 1982, allowed Christian Phalange militia allies of Israel to enter the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps, even though everyone knew from past history that massacres would result.  Over the next 38 hours 7-800 Palestinian refugees were massacred by the Christian militia.

We reportedly told the Northern Alliance not to enter Kabul until arrangements had been made for a government to replace the Taliban.  Northern Alliance officials agreed, but warned that they would have to enter the city were a "political vacuum" to develop.

In a statement that insults the intelligence of the American people, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that

it might be difficult to stop the Northern Alliance if they tried to seize the capital.

"We don't have enough forces on the ground to stand in their way," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

If the United States explicitly told the Northern Alliance not to enter the capital, does anyone believe they still would?

If the U.S. warned them of a cut-off of further assistance, would they Northern Alliance dare defy us?

If the U.S. merely parked a helicopter gunship in front of the advancing Northern Alliance troops, does anyone believe the Northern Alliance would fire on us?

Rumsfeld's statements are actually a public relations effort to avoid the appearance that the Northern Alliance is under U.S. control. 

The reality is, if the Northern Alliance has entered Kabul, it has done so with U.S. approval.

Pray for the civilians there that the Northern Alliance troops conduct themselves properly.

Earlier today, even before it was known that the Northern Alliance had taken Kabul, the U.N. issued an urgent call for

Afghan politicians to meet within days, make interim arrangements for the Afghan capital and provide the nucleus for a broad-based government to replace the Taliban.

Now that the Northern Alliance is already in Kabul, the urgency is magnified, and the U.S. -- as the creator of this new and highly volatile situation on the ground -- must work to ensure that the people of Kabul, and the rest of Afghanistan now under Northern Alliance control, are protected.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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War Strategy

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