Only the Northern Alliance Can Bring Peace and Eliminate Terrorist Bases'
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung / Oct. 7, 2001
Burhanuddin Rabbani, 61, is still the president of Afghanistan -- at least in those parts of the country where anti-Taleban forces are still in control. Mr. Rabbani's government, which came to power in 1992, was overthrown by the Taleban militia in 1996. It remains, however, the government recognized by the United Nations as the legitimate Afghan government. This interview appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's nation-wide Sunday edition.
F.A.Z.: Mr. President, before the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks on the United States, the West was hardly interested in your fight against the Taleban. How has your position as president in exile changed over the last few weeks?
Burhanuddin Rabbani: We are finally being listened to. For years, this was not the case, even though we warned loudly and clearly that the Taleban, as hosts of terrorism, were not only committing crimes and mass murder in Afghanistan, but that they posed a great danger for the region and the whole world. Nobody wanted to believe us. Instead, the world calmly watched the mass murder and torching of cities in Afghanistan as well as the Afghans' misery and flight. It was the unfortunate terrorist attacks against America that revealed the danger to the world. Until then, the Islamic government living here in exile was not seen an existing force against the Taleban's terrorism.
The United States disappointed you?
After the defeat of Soviet troops, the United States completely forgot about our country. It neither granted diplomatic recognition to the mujahidin government, nor provided humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged Afghan people. Instead, it helped Pakistan to create the Taleban, which it supported and armed to topple my Islamic government, which was made up of mujahidin groups that contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union.
Do you nonetheless stand as a loyal partner at America's side in the fight against the Taleban?
We are the ones who, in order to save our people, have been fighting for years against the Taleban's terrorism and their foreign comrades-in-arms. After the events of Sept. 11, the United States resolved to do the same, and that is good. But it and its allies must know that nothing is possible without us. Our Islamic government and the United Front, called the Northern Alliance in Germany, is the only force arrayed against the Taleban's terrorism that is capable of bringing peace and eliminating terrorist bases. The front line already runs just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Kabul.
What do you expect from the Americans?
We demand that the United States help to establish peace and stability as well as provide humanitarian aid and rebuild Afghanistan. I have conveyed a message to the American president, but so far, there have been no talks with him. And aside from the establishment of diplomatic contacts, America has rendered no support to date.
Perhaps the reason is that the Northern Alliance is considered to be fragile. Just how solid is it in fact?
You constantly refer to the Northern Alliance, which is incorrect, because the United Front and the Islamic government comprise not only the Northern Alliance, but also forces from the western, southern, eastern and central parts of Afghanistan. That is why this group is called the United Front.
Do Afghans want their government back?
We are not trying to seize power again. We will acknowledge and respect whatever decision the people make regarding their political future. We are only fighting now for the initial goal: to establish peace and security in Afghanistan.
How strong is your alliance in manpower and weaponry? And how strong are your adversaries?
More than 25,000 of our fighters are active on the fronts. This number could be multiplied if logistical requirements were met and the necessary military equipment were available. We estimate the number of Taleban fighters at between 30,000 and 50,000, and they are well-equipped. Among them are thousands of Pakistanis and Arabs. The morale of the Afghans fighting alongside the Taleban is noticeably diminishing. So far, more than 2,000 of them have joined our ranks. They say that thousands of their comrades want to do the same.
Should the Americans send in ground troops or would air strikes be sufficient to capture Osama bin Laden?
Dispatching ground troops to Afghanistan is dangerous. If the Americans are only concerned about bin Laden, the problem could be solved through cooperation with Pakistan and increased pressure on the taleban. If Pakistan really cooperates sincerely, bin Laden could be captured without war.
What is your opinion of bringing Mohammed Zahir Shah, the former Afghan king, back from exile in Rome?
Every Afghan living abroad has the right to return to his homeland. This applies to the former king just as it does to every other Afghan. He cannot come back as king, however, because the Afghan people alone must answer the question of who should lead our country in the future. Afghans only, and not some outside power, have to decide on the country's leadership.
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