Northern Afghan warlords rearming to stave off possible Taliban resurgence

Kabul, Oct 24 (ANI): Warlords in Northern Afghanistan are reportedly rearming, fearing and dreading the prospect of a possible Taliban return to power after almost a decade.

According to the Telegraph, leaders and residents of northern Afghanistan blame the Taliban for destroying their lives in the 1990s, and view President Hamid Karzai's hand-picked "peace council" of former warlords, tribal elders and clerics with skepticism.

In the last week or so, Afghan and American officials have been holding secret discussions with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the second ranking figure in the Taliban, in the firmest indication yet that substantive peace talks will soon begin.

Karzai's 68-member peace council has a mandate to pursue talks with the insurgents as the NATO-led war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year.

However any deal that ensures shared power with Taliban leaders would greatly alarm Afghanistan's smaller ethnic groups, which fought for five years against the movement in the late 1990s, their leaders have said.

"If people are not actually digging up their old guns, they are at least locating them and putting a little marker on them," one diplomat in Kabul told The Sunday Telegraph.

Commander Naqibullah, a Tajik who led 500 men in desperate fighting in the 1990s, said many felt the current attempt at a peace process was a plot by Karzai - himself a Pashtun - to extend Pashtun influence.

He asked: "We saw the Taliban had beaten civilians around the head with iron bars, I saw they had killed six like that. When you have seen things like that, should we accept the peace process or not?"

Sitting cross-legged beneath an almond tree in the fields where he fought a decade ago, he said his men had given up their assault rifles and grenade launchers.

"But when we handed in our weapons to the government for money, many people bought cows," he said. "If they need to, they will sell their cows for guns again," he warned.

Lt Ahmad Jawad, a gangly 26-year-old who now wears the black beret and blotchy camouflage of the Afghan border police, said the Taliban destroyed houses, burnt trees and crops to establish their authority.

"If they are really now looking for peace for Afghanistan, we are happy, but I don't think they are," he said.

Saleh Registani, a former MP from the Panjshir Valley north of Jabal Saraj said Karzai was playing a dangerous game and his negotiation was a threat to non-Pashtuns.

"It's not very clear what this negotiation is, how it is going on, who are the negotiators and what are the limits. No one knows except Mr. Karzai." (ANI)

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