[Reader-list] Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at mnet.fr
Wed Dec 5 01:34:47 IST 2001

Foreign Affairs
November, 2001 / December, 2001

Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires

by Milton Bearden;

MILTON BEARDEN served as CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986 to 
1989, where he was  responsible for that agency's covert action 
program in support of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet-supported 


  MICHNI POINT, Pakistan's last outpost at the western end of the 
barren, winding Khyber Pass, stands sentinel over Torkham  Gate, the 
deceptively orderly border crossing into Afghanistan. Frontier Scouts 
in gray shalwar kameezes (traditional tunics  and loose pants) and 
black berets patrol the lonely station commanded by a major of the 
legendary Khyber Rifles, the militia  force that has been guarding 
the border with Afghanistan since the nineteenth century, first for 
British India and then for  Pakistan. This spot, perhaps more than 
any other, has witnessed the traverse of the world's great armies on 
campaigns of  conquest to and from South and Central Asia. All 
eventually ran into trouble in their encounters with the unruly 
Afghan  tribals.

  Alexander the Great sent his supply trains through the Khyber, then 
skirted northward with his army to the Konar Valley on  his campaign 
in 327 BC. There he ran into fierce resistance and, struck by an 
Afghan archer's arrow, barely made it to the  Indus River with his 
life. Genghis Khan and the great Mughal emperors began passing 
through the Khyber a millennium later  and ultimately established the 
greatest of empires - but only after reaching painful accommodations 
with the Afghans. From  Michni Point, a trained eye can still see the 
ruins of the Mughal signal towers used to relay complex torch-light 
messages  1,500 miles from Calcutta to Bukhara in less than an hour. 
In the nineteenth century the Khyber became the fulcrum of the  Great 
Game, the contest between the United Kingdom and Russia for control 
of Central Asia and India. The first Afghan War  (1839 - 42) began 
when British commanders sent a huge army of British and Indian troops 
into Afghanistan to secure it  against Russian incursions, replacing 
the ruling emir with a British protege. Facing Afghan opposition, by 
January 1842 the  British were forced to withdraw from Kabul with a 
column of 16,500 soldiers and civilians, heading east to the garrison 
at  Jalalabad, 110 miles away. Only a single survivor of that group 
ever made it to Jalalabad safely, though the British forces did 
recover some prisoners many months later.

  According to the late Louis Dupree, the premier historian of 
Afghanistan, four factors contributed to the British disaster: the 
occupation of Afghan territory by foreign troops, the placing of an 
unpopular emir on the throne, the harsh acts of the 
British-supported Afghans against their local enemies, and the 
reduction of the subsidies paid to the tribal chiefs by British 
political agents. The British would repeat these mistakes in the 
second Afghan War (1878 - 81), as would the Soviets a  century later; 
the United States would be wise to consider them today.

  In the aftermath of the second British misadventure in Afghanistan, 
Rudyard Kipling penned his immortal lines on the role of  the local 
women in tidying up the battlefields:

  When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains  And the women 
come out to cut up what remains  Jest roll to your rifle an' blow out 
your brains  An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

  The British fought yet a third war with Afghanistan in 1917, an 
encounter that neither burnished British martial history nor  subdued 
the Afghan people. But by the end of World War I, that phase of the 
Great Game was over. During World War II,  Afghanistan flirted with 
Aryanism and the Third Reich, becoming, fleetingly, "the Switzerland" 
of Central Asia in a new  game of intrigue as Allied and Axis 
coalitions jockeyed for position in the region. But after the war the 
country settled back  into its natural state of ethnic and factional 
squabbling. The Soviet Union joined in from the sidelines, but 
Afghanistan was so  remote from the consciousness of the West that 
scant attention was paid to it until the last king, Zahir Shah, was 
deposed in  1973. Then began the cycle of conflict that continues to 
the present.


  AFGHANISTAN FESTERED through the 1970s, but with the seizure of 
power in Kabul by Nur Mohammed Taraki in 1978,  the country began a 
rapid spiral into anarchy. Washington's ambassador in Kabul, Adolph 
Dubs, was kidnapped in February  1979 and later killed during a 
failed rescue attempt; the next month, Hafizullah Amin seized the 
prime ministership along with  much of Taraki's power; and eight 
months later, on Christmas Eve, after watching the disintegration of 
order for much of a  decade, the Kremlin decided to try its hand at 
military adventure.

  The Soviets began with a modern repetition of the fatal British 
error of installing an unpopular "emir" on the Afghan "throne."  The 
operation was marked by a brutal efficiency: Hafizullah Amin was 
killed under mysterious circumstances, Kabul was  secured, and the 
Soviets put their man, Babrak Karmal, at the helm of the Afghan 
government. It looked initially as if the  Soviets' optimistic 
prediction that they would be in and out of Afghanistan almost before 
anyone noticed might prove correct.  Certainly, President Jimmy 
Carter was too preoccupied with the hostage crisis in Iran to give 
much thought to Afghanistan, or  so the Kremlin believed.

  To Moscow's surprise, however, Carter reacted quickly and 
decisively. He cancelled a number of pending agreements with  the 
Soviet Union, ranging from wheat sales to consular exchanges; he set 
in motion the boycott of the 1980 Moscow  Olympics; and, much more 
quietly and decisively, he signed a presidential finding that tasked 
the CIA with the organization  of aid, including arms and military 
support, to the Afghan people in their resistance to the Soviet 
occupation. In January 1980,  Carter sent his national security 
adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, for consultations with Pakistani 
leaders who were already  supporting the Afghan resistance. On a side 
trip from Islamabad, Brzezinski traveled the length of the Khyber 
Pass to the  outpost at Michni Point, where he was photographed 
squinting along the sights of a Soviet AK-47 assault rifle, its 
muzzle  elevated and pointing into Afghanistan. In that moment, the 
president's national security adviser became the symbol of the 
impending U.S. phase of involvement in Afghanistan's endless martial 

  The CIA had to scramble to comply with the president's order. But 
within weeks it had organized its first weapons delivery  - a 
shipment of several thousand venerable Enfield.303 rifles, the 
standard weapon of the Afghan tribals - to the resistance  fighters 
who were already beginning to snipe at the Soviet invaders. During 
the 1980s, the agency would deliver several  hundred thousand tons of 
weapons and ordnance to Pakistan for distribution to the Afghan 
fighters known to the world as  mujahideen, the soldiers of God. The 
coalition of countries supporting the resistance grew to an 
impressive collection that  included the United States, the United 
Kingdom, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and China. Lining up behind 
seven separate  and fractious Afghan resistance leaders based in 
Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, the 
mujahideen field commanders were allotted their supplies and sent off 
to face the Soviet forces.

  For the first five years of its covert war, the CIA attempted to 
maintain plausible deniability. Its officers in Pakistan kept a  low 
profile, and the weapons it supplied to the mujahideen, with the 
exception of the British Enfields, were models  manufactured in 
Warsaw Pact countries. An additional advantage of using Soviet bloc 
weapons was that the mujahideen  could use any ammunition they could 
capture from army garrisons of the puppet Democratic Republic of 
Afghanistan - or  buy, with American dollars, from corrupt DRA 
quartermasters or even Red Army supply officers.

  By 1985, the Soviet 40th Army had grown from its original, limited 
expeditionary force to an occupation force of around  120,000 troops, 
widely dispersed at garrisons around the country. But as the Soviet 
forces grew, so did the Afghan  resistance. By the mid-1980s the 
mujahideen had more than 250,000 full- or part-time fighters in the 
field, and though they  and the civilian population had suffered 
horrendous losses - a million dead and 1.5 million injured, plus 6 
million more  driven into internal and external exile - the Soviet 
forces were also beginning to suffer.

  As the CIA became more deeply involved in its covert proxy war with 
the Soviet Union, it became clear to President Ronald  Reagan's new 
CIA director, William Casey, that the conflict had stalemated. The 
United States was fighting the Soviets to the  last Afghan in a 
confrontation that could run on indefinitely. By 1985 Soviet air 
tactics had been refined, and the mujahideen  suffered increasing 
casualties from the growing Soviet fleet of heavily armored MI-24D 
attack helicopters. The Afghans had  nothing in their arsenal 
adequate to defend against this equipment and so, after a heated 
debate and heavy pressure from  Congress, the White House decided to 
provide them with Stinger antiaircraft missiles. The Stingers entered 
the war a month  after Mikhail Gorbachev's seminal August 1986 speech 
in Vladivostok, where he described the conflict, now in its seventh 
year, as a "bleeding wound." U.S. intelligence at the time, however, 
indicated that as he uttered those first words of  disengagement, he 
also gave his generals one year to bring the Afghans under control, 
using whatever force necessary. Three  months earlier the Soviets had 
replaced the failing Babrak Karmal with the brutal, sadistic 
secret-police chief Mohammed  Najibullah, a move that only stiffened 
mujahideen resistance and set the scene for the endgame of the 
Soviets' Afghan  adventure.

  Two events in the late summer of 1986 changed the course of the war. 
On August 20 a lucky shot by the mujahideen sent a  107 mm rocket 
into a DRA supply dump on the outskirts of Kabul, setting off 
secondary explosions that destroyed tens of  thousands of tons of 
ordnance, lighting up the skies of the Afghan capital by night and 
smoldering during the day. A month  later, on September 26, a team 
led by a resistance commander with the unlikely name of Ghaffar ("the 
forgiver," one of the 99  names of Allah) brought down three MI-24 
helicopters in the first Stinger ambush of the war. The effect of 
these events on the  mujahideen was electric, and within days the 
setbacks for the Soviet forces were snowballing, with one or two 
aircraft per  day falling from the skies at the end of the Stingers' 
telltale white plumes.

  When the snows melted in the high passes for the new fighting season 
of 1987, diplomatic activity intensified, with the United  States 
represented by the exceptionally able Michael Armacost, the 
under-secretary of state for political affairs. It had  become clear 
not only to Gorbachev and his negotiators but also to his generals in 
the field that there would be no letup in  Afghanistan, and that the 
time to consider disengagement had come. On April 14, 1988, after 
agonized negotiations over such  tortured concepts as "negative 
symmetry" in drawing down supplies to the combatants, the Geneva 
Accords ending Soviet  involvement in Afghanistan were signed. The 
date for the final withdrawal of all Soviet forces was set at 
February 15, 1989,  a timetable that the commander of the Soviet 40th 
Army in Afghanistan, General Boris Gromov, choreographed to the last 
moment of the last day. February 15 also marked the end of outside 
military support to both sides in the war, at least in  theory.

  Gromov wanted arrangements to be just right. The international press 
was shuttled from nearby Termez, Uzbekistan, to a  special press 
center, complete with a new, covered pavilion. The body of a hapless 
minesweeper had been quietly carried  across the Friendship Bridge 
before the press had time to reason that his blanket-wrapped form was 
the last Russian soldier  killed in the ten-year war. The cameras of 
several dozen news services zoomed in on the center of the bridge, 
where a lone  Soviet tank had pulled to a halt. The diminutive Soviet 
general jumped from the turret, pulled his battle-dress tunic into 
place,  and strode purposely over the last hundred yards toward the 
Soviet side of the Amu Dar'ya. Just before he reached the end of  the 
bridge, his son Maksim, a slim, awkward 14-year-old, greeted his 
father with a stiff embrace and presented him with a  bouquet of red 
carnations. Son and father marched the last 50 yards out of 
Afghanistan together.


  IN TEN YEARS OF WAR, the Soviet Union admitted to having had about 
15,000 troops killed in action, several hundred  thousand wounded, 
and tens of thousands dead from disease. The true numbers might be 
higher, but they are not worth  debating. What followed Gromov's exit 
grew rapidly into a cataclysm for the Soviets and a national disaster 
for the Afghans.

  The first signs came in May 1989, when an already emboldened 
Hungarian government correctly concluded it could open its  border 
with Austria without fear of Soviet intervention. That signal act was 
followed a month later by the stunning election of  a Solidarity 
majority in Poland's parliament, ending that country's nearly 
half-century of communist rule. Throughout the  summer of 1989, the 
people of East Germany took to the streets, first in small numbers, 
then gaining strength and courage in  the tens and hundreds of 
thousands until, on the night of November 9, 1989, in a comedy of 
errors and miscues, the Berlin  Wall was breached and Germans surged 
from east to west. The world had hardly digested these events when 
Czechoslovakia's Vaclav Havel and his band of dissidents from the 
Magic Lantern theater carried out their own Velvet  Revolution a 
month later.

  With the world's eyes focused almost exclusively on the historic 
events in Eastern Europe, or on the vivid image of a young 
demonstrator staring down a Chinese tank in Beijing's Tiananmen 
Square, the drama unfolding in Afghanistan received scant  attention. 
Though there were heroic efforts by relief agencies to provide 
humanitarian aid, the senior officials of President  George H. W. 
Bush's administration did not look back to that former war zone, 
their energies instead consumed by the  stunning denouement of the 
Cold War.

  In the turn away from Afghanistan, the United States would dismiss 
even its staunch ally, Pakistan. No longer able to stave off 
congressionally mandated sanctions triggered by its nuclear weapons 
development program, Pakistan fell out of Washington's  favor. As the 
1990s began with great hope elsewhere in the world, in Afghanistan a 
new post - Cold War construct started  taking shape: the failed 
state. And as it failed and spun into anarchy, Afghanistan became the 
home of a new and little  understood threat: the aggrieved Arab 

  The role of the so-called Afghan Arabs in the ten-year war against 
the Soviet occupation is the subject of much debate and  misinformed 
commentary. By early 1980, the call to jihad (holy war) had reached 
all corners of the Islamic world, attracting  Arabs young and old and 
with a variety of motivations to travel to Pakistan to take up arms 
and cross the border to fight  against the Soviet invaders in 
Afghanistan. There were genuine volunteers on missions of 
humanitarian value, there were  adventure seekers looking for paths 
to glory, and there were psychopaths. As the war dragged on, a number 
of Arab states  discreetly emptied their prisons of homegrown 
troublemakers and sent them off to the jihad with the fervent hope 
that they  might not return. Over the ten years of war as many as 
25,000 Arabs may have passed through Pakistan and Afghanistan. At 
one time the CIA considered having volunteer Arab legions take part 
in the war, but the idea was scrapped as unwise and  unworkable. 
Despite what has often been written, the CIA never recruited, 
trained, or otherwise used the Arab volunteers  who arrived in 
Pakistan. The idea that the Afghans somehow needed fighters from 
outside their culture was deeply flawed  and ignored basic historical 
and cultural facts. The Arabs who did travel to Afghanistan from 
Peshawar were generally  considered nuisances by mujahideen 
commanders, some of whom viewed them as only slightly less bothersome 
than the  Soviets. As fundraisers, however, the Arabs from the 
Persian Gulf played a positive, often critical role in the background 
of  the war. During some months in 1987 and 1988, Arab fundraisers in 
both Pakistan and their home countries raised as much as  $ 25 
million for their largely humanitarian and construction projects. 
Among the more prominent of these Arab fundraisers  was one Osama bin 
Ladin, the son of a Saudi billionaire.

  Active in Afghanistan since the early 1980s, having previously 
worked in the Persian Gulf to recruit Arabs for the jihad, bin  Ladin 
focused his early energies on construction projects, building 
orphanages and homes for widows as well as roads and  bunker systems 
in eastern Afghanistan. He and a few of his Saudi followers saw some 
combat in 1987, while associated with  the Islamic Unity Party of 
Abdul Rasul Sayaf, an Egyptian-trained Afghan member of the Muslim 
Brotherhood who later in  the jihad embraced Saudi Wahhabism. At the 
crucial battles of Jaji and Ali Khel, Sayaf and his Saudis acquitted 
themselves  well by stopping a Soviet and DRA advance that could have 
resulted in large-scale destruction of mujahideen supply dumps  and 
staging areas in the province of Paktia. More than two dozen Saudis 
died in those engagements, and the military legend of  Osama bin 
Ladin was born.

  But at this point in the war, few were concerned about the role of 
the Afghan Arabs, with the exception of growing criticism  by Western 
humanitarian organizations of the harsh fundamentalism of the Saudi 
Wahhabis and Deobandis whose influence in  the refugee camps in 
Pakistan, now bursting with about three million Afghans, was 
pervasive. It was in these squalid camps  that a generation of young 
Afghan males would be born into and raised in the strictest 
fundamentalism of the Deobandi  madrassas (Islamic schools). It was 
here that the seeds of the Taliban were sown.


  THOUGH the Soviets left Afghanistan in 1989, it was not until April 
1992 that the mujahideen finally took Kabul, killed  Najibullah, and 
declared what passed for victory. Their triumph would be short-lived. 
Old hatreds and ethnic realities once  again drove events, and 
without the unifying presence of foreign armies on Afghan soil, the 
state of Afghanistan simply fell  apart. The civil war resumed with 
horrendous brutality until the population was ready for any path to 
peace, and soon one  presented itself.

  Rising almost mystically from the sheer chaos, the Taliban (derived 
from a Persian word meaning Islamic students or  seekers), began to 
form under the leadership of a one-eyed cleric from Oruzgan province 
in central Afghanistan, who the  world would come to know as Mullah 
Mohammad Omar. More as a result of timing than of military might, 
they swept through  the Pashtun world of eastern Afghanistan, a 
welcome relief from the brigands controlling the valleys and mountain 
passes. By  1996 the Taliban had seized Kabul, and the Afghan people 
seemed to accept their deliverance. The West fleetingly saw the 
Taliban as the source of a new order and a possible tool in yet 
another replay of the Great Game - the race for the energy  riches of 
Central Asia. U.S. and foreign oil firms were looking for ways to 
pipe the vast natural-gas reserves of Turkmenistan  to energy-starved 
markets in Pakistan. By 1996, most of the route of the proposed 
pipeline was loosely under Taliban  control, and the match of 
politics, power, and energy seemed attractive. But the optimism was 
short-lived. In 1997, plans for  the Afghan pipeline were shelved and 
the country began an even sharper downward spiral, as the Taliban 
over-reached in  their quest to take control of the country. Their 
atrocious human rights record and treatment of women drew 
international  scorn, and with the exception of diplomatic 
recognition from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and 
Pakistan,  Afghanistan was in total isolation. Its failure as a state 
of any recognizable form was now complete.

  Against this backdrop, the Afghan Arab troublemakers began to drift 
back to Afghanistan. Many of them, including Osama bin  Ladin, had 
left Afghanistan after the Soviet defeat, full of determination to 
bring about radical societal change in their home  countries. All 
failed, and many began roaming among the few remaining states in the 
world that served as safe havens for  their kind, mostly behind the 
Iron Curtain. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the would-be 
terrorists of the world fell  on hard times. They lost their 
playgrounds in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and even the 
redoubtable Carlos pitched  up in Khartoum - where, coincidentally, 
bin Ladin had also settled after a failed attempt to bring about 
change in his Saudi  homeland. Bin Ladin engaged in a number of 
agricultural, construction, and business ventures, but most of his 
consciousness  was consumed by a brooding hatred of the United 
States. This passion grew during the Gulf War, and five years later, 
with  U.S. troops still stationed in Saudi Arabia, bin Ladin's rage 
found its final form. It would be the United States against which  he 
would concentrate all of his energies.

  By 1995, however, bin Ladin's presence in Sudan had become an issue 
both for the United States and for Saudi Arabia,  which by this time 
had stripped bin Ladin of his Saudi citizenship. The Sudanese were 
quietly told that bin Ladin was a major  obstacle to improved 
relations, and that Khartoum would be wise to ask him to leave. Sudan 
had already begun ridding itself  of undesirables. In a dramatic 
setup, Carlos, stretched out on a Khartoum hospital operating table 
having a vasectomy  reversed, was abruptly bundled up by French 
security officers and spirited off to Paris to stand trial for 
earlier crimes.  According to a PBS Frontline television interview 
with Sudanese President Umar Hassan al-Bashir, the Sudanese 
government offered to keep bin Ladin on a tight leash, or even hand 
him over to the Saudis or the Americans. The Saudis  reportedly 
declined the offer, for fear his presence would only cause more 
trouble in the royal kingdom, and the United States  reportedly 
passed because it had no indictable complaints against bin Ladin at 
the time. In 1996, then, on U.S. and Saudi  instructions, bin Ladin 
was expelled from Sudan, and he moved to the last stop on the terror 
line, Afghanistan.

  Still relatively unknown to the public, bin Ladin came into view 
through a CNN interview in 1997, when he claimed that his  disciples 
had been behind the killing of 18 American soldiers in Somalia in 
1993. The next year he issued a fatwa, an Islamic  decree, of 
questionable authenticity, calling for all-out war against all 
Americans. But it was in August 1998 that he was  indelibly etched 
into the world's consciousness, when terrorists thought to have links 
to his Al Qaeda organization struck  simultaneously at American 
embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 persons, including 12 
Americans, and wounding  5,000. The U.S. response was quick but 
futile - 75 cruise missiles were launched at bin Ladin's training 
camps in  Afghanistan and at a pharmaceutical factory suspected of 
producing precursors for chemical weapons in Sudan. Bin Ladin 
escaped unharmed, and the attack on the Sudanese pharmaceutical 
factory remains a smoldering controversy to this day.


  SINCE 1998, the hunt for bin Ladin has been the driving force behind 
U.S. policy toward Afghanistan. Though the Taliban  have repeatedly 
claimed that the Saudi has been under their control and incapable of 
fomenting the various attacks with which  he is charged - including 
that against the U.S.S. Cole in Aden and those on the World Trade 
Center and the Pentagon - the  U.S. government has little doubt that 
bin Ladin is the culprit. The confrontation with him and those who 
shelter him is at the  point of no return.

  It probably could not be otherwise, but how this first engagement in 
the new U.S. war on terrorism is conducted will be  crucial to all 
that follows. The coalition being carefully constructed will function 
differently from that built for the Gulf War  a decade ago. The bulk 
of the military tasks in that brief war against Iraq were intended 
from the outset to be carried out by  the Americans, the British, and 
the French. The participation of the Arab states was not crucial to 
the fighting, though it was  crucial to the U.S. ability to operate 
from bases near Iraq. In this new conflict, the roles will, in many 
ways, be reversed. The  coalition partners from the Arab and Islamic 
states will have specific, front-line operational roles. They will 
serve as force  multipliers for the usual alliance of American and 
European intelligence and security services and special operations 
forces.  If the terror network is to be dismantled, it will be with 
help from the security services of Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, 
and  a few others, not from the exclusive efforts of the United 
States or its European allies.

  So the tale ends where it began, at Michni Point. As the Bush 
administration balances its military and political goals, plans to 
send U.S. troops into Afghanistan to seize bin Ladin should be 
weighed carefully for their practicality and political  implications. 
Strident calls to add the overthrow of the Taliban regime to the list 
of American objectives may be attractive in  terms of human rights, 
but that objective, too, must be weighed against the goal of making 
certain that the events of September  11 are not repeated.

  Some have called for arming and forming an alliance with 
Afghanistan's now-leaderless Northern Alliance. This grouping of 
commanders, meticulously pulled together in shifting alliances by the 
late Ahmed Shah Masoud, now holds about ten percent  of Afghan 
territory. Already the recipient of military and financial support 
from Russia and Iran, it seems a logical partner in  the U.S. quest 
to locate and neutralize the bin Ladin network and replace the 
Taliban regime.

  But that is not a wise course - not simply because of the cold irony 
of allying ourselves with the Russians in any fight in  Afghanistan, 
but because it is not likely to achieve either goal. It is more than 
doubtful that the Northern Alliance forces could  capture bin Ladin 
and his followers, and there is no reasonable guarantee that they 
could dislodge the Taliban. On the  contrary, the more likely 
consequences of a U.S. alliance with the late Masoud's fighters would 
be the coalescing of  Afghanistan's majority Pashtun tribes around 
their Taliban leaders and the rekindling of a brutal, general civil 
war that would  continue until the United States simply gave up. The 
dominant tribe in Afghanistan, which also happens to be the largest, 
will  dominate; replacing the Pashtun Taliban with the largely Tajik 
and Uzbek Northern Alliance is close to impossible. The  threat of 
providing covert assistance to the Northern Alliance might be a 
useful short-term strategy to pressure the Taliban, if  it is handled 
delicately, but any real military alliance to Masoud's successors 
will backfire.

  The administration would do better to try to draw off segments of 
the Pashtun population only loosely allied with the Taliban  regime. 
Those Pashtuns who signed on with the Taliban over the last five 
years did so because the Taliban seemed at the time  to offer a fair 
chance for peace after decades of indescribably brutal war. They did 
not sign on to fight the United States,  whose military might many of 
them will recall from the struggle against the Soviet occupation. The 
administration seems to  realize this, and it is now moving quietly, 
gathering resources in the land of the Pashtun.

  If anyone is to replace an emir in Afghanistan, it will have to be 
the people of Afghanistan themselves. Any doubters should  ask the 
British and the Russians.

  GRAPHIC: Photo, Not much left to lose: Outside Kabul, Afghanistan, 
September 2, 2001, AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS;  Map, no caption, Map by IP 

Copyright 2001 Council on Foreign Relations, Inc.  Foreign Affairs

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