U.S., major powers begin talks on fall of Kabul
WASHINGTON, Nov. 10 (Kyodo) - The U.S. government has begun talks with major powers to prepare for Afghanistan's Kabul falling to the Northern Alliance before midwinter following its capture of the key city of Mazar-e-Sharif, diplomatic sources said Friday.
Richard Haas, a State Department official and envoy on the Afghanistan issue, went to New York on Friday to meet with U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi and representatives of the world's major powers, they said.
The Friday capture of Mazar-e-Sharif, a former Taliban stronghold in northern Afghanistan, by the alliance marks the first major victory against the Taliban since the United States launched its military campaign in Afghanistan on Oct. 7.
The U.S. believes the alliance, under the support of U.S.-led air strikes, will not retreat even if the Taliban attempt to retake the city, the sources said.
On Kabul, the sources said the U.S. is ready to accept the alliance gaining control of the capital if only to destroy the Taliban and if there is no alternative. Earlier, the U.S. was opposed to an advance of the alliance into Kabul because it is expected to draw protests from local residents and Pakistan, the sources said.
But an approval of the move and U.S. air support for it are being studied due the necessity of eliminating remaining Taliban forces in Kabul, and the leadership vacuum that will result. According to the sources, Britain has unofficially proposed to set up a multilateral force including participation from the U.S., France and Turkey to act as international monitors in Kabul.
Brahimi has predicted an early retreat of the Taliban from Kabul. The envoy proposed Washington hold a conference of 200-300 representatives from various Afghan political factions, excluding the Taliban, and form a core policy-making group of 20-30 representatives as an interim government.
Since the U.S. air strikes began, Washington has relentlessly attacked Taliban targets and has used carpet bombing. According to U.S. military sources, Washington plans to starve out the Taliban if they hide in residential areas.
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