- WASHINGTON - As warlords
have carved out chunks of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, the
lawlessness that gave rise to the strict Islamic movement in the mid-1990ís
has begun to spread, once again, across this country.
- The United States-led military campaign that began on
October 7 has succeeded in eradicating most of the Taliban and Al Qaeda
from Afghanistan, but it has returned to power nearly all of the same warlords
who had misruled the country in the days before the Taliban, says The New
York Times in a Kandahar dateline story.
- The warlords have all pledged loyalty to the interim
government in Kabul. But the government is dominated by ethnic Tajiks from
one division of the Northern Alliance. It is headed by the one fresh face
in an old roster, Hamid Karzai, a previously little- known figure nationally
who controls no real army of his own and no territory, but was handpicked
by the United States.
- As power has shifted back to the regional warlords away
from Kabul, the daily points out, the absence of a strong central authority
has brought back anarchy to southern Afghanistan. It quotes Bus drivers
from Kandahar having said that soldiers at checkpoints, allied with bandits,
were robbing and killing travelers. Many buses were still unaccounted for,
- One particular stretch of road, into the southwestern
province of Nimruz, has become so dangerous that bus drivers at the station
were now refusing to go there. "The situation is worse than it was
before the Taliban came to power,î"said Muhammad Zahir, 38,
a ticket collector for the Kandahar-Herat line. "Before they were
taking cars and money. But now they are also killing people."
- "I'ím not missing the Taliban," he added.
"But security was very good under them. Now there is not one person
in charge, and there is no security."
- "We have learned from the experience of the last
seven years when the Taliban were in power," said Khan Muhammad, the
defence minister for the four provinces under the control of Gul Agha Shirzai,
the warlord based in Kandahar. "We can work together now. The United
States is supporting us. The United Nations is supporting us. It is a new
- The daily says even in Kandahar Province, where virtually
everybody has professed fealty to Interim Government leader Hamid Karzai,
not everybody respects the wishes of the governor, Shirzai. At the bordertown
of Spinbaldak, for instance, the Noorzai and Achakzai tribes assert their
control by levying tolls. Earlier this week, the United Nationsí
World Food Program said it had been unable to deliver food to Kandahar
because militiamen were stopping their trucks and demanding $100 each to
- Despite the situation in Spinbaldak and in other pockets
of resistance, Shirzai controls one of the biggest swaths of Afghanistan,
including the ethnic Pashtun provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and
Uruzgan. As the governor of Kandahar before the rise of the Taliban, Shirzai
had been known for his cruelty and for letting his unruly men run free.
- His allies are expected to become governors of the three
other provinces under his control. The former governor of Uruzgan, Jan
Muhammad, is expected to reclaim his position soon. In Zabul, another former
governor, Hamidullah, has already been appointed. The former governor of
Helmand died during the Taliban years, but his nephew, Mullah Sher Muhammad,
is now in charge.
- In western Afghanistan, Khan, a Tajik, and his allies
control five provinces: Herat, Badghis, Ghowr, Farah and Nimruz. A top
commander in the Northern Alliance, he has long dominated the Persian-speaking
region. His tenure before the Taliban was remembered for its corruption
and the palace he built overlooking Herat.
- In the north, Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek, brutally
ruled much of the region for the eight years before the Taliban takeover
there in 1997, and established an enduring reputation for treachery. His
militia, called the Jowzjanis after their province of origin, was one of
the most feared in the country.
- He is now said to control most of five provinces, including
Balakh, Jowzjan, Fariab, Sar-i-Pul and Samangan. This week, Karzai appointed
General Dostum as deputy defense minister, in a clear move to win his support.
In an interview after his appointment, General Dostum talked of extending
his influence to three provinces east of his fiefdom: Takhar, Kunduz and
- Those three provinces, in addition to Kabul, Parwan,
Kapisa and Badakshan, are back in the hands of the Tajiks loyal to former
President Burhanuddin Rabbani and his military commander, Ahmad Shah Massood,
who was assassinated in September. Members of this faction of the Northern
Alliance dominate the interim government, heading the defense, interior
and foreign ministries.
- Faces, all of them familiar, hold sway again over smaller
patches of Afghanistan. Abdul Qadir, the brother of another assassinated
anti-Taliban leader, Abdul Haq, now controls the eastern provinces of Konarha,
Laghman and Nangarhar.
- Before the Taliban, he had served as governor of Nangarhar,
one of the countryís largest opium-producing provinces. In exchange
for international aid, he reduced the poppy crop by half, but then let
it return to its original size when the aid was cut.
- In Bamiyan, the central province where the Taliban blew
up giant Buddhas this year, the ethnic Hazara governor, Karim Khalili,
is back in power. A former governor, Qari Baba, has also regained control
over Ghazni Province.
- And in eastern Afghanistan, tribal shuras, or councils,
have recaptured authority over five provinces, Wardak, Logar, Paktia, Khost
and Paktika. ìIn northern Afghanistan, the same people who were
in power before the Taliban are now in power, and it is the same in southern
Afghanistan,î said Muhammad Akram, the chief of police in the four
provinces under Shirzai's control.
- The main reason that different factions here in Kandahar
have worked together until now, commanders say privately, is that the United
States has doled out enough money to stanch the rivalries. But the money
has apparently not trickled down. "There are no salaries now,"
Akram said of his police officers. "They are now working for their
country. We are giving them only food."
- Some officers and soldiers have evidently begun demanding
a greater cut, if the bus drivers traveling Afghanistanís lawless
roads are to be believed. At the bus station here, Noor Muhammad, 22, had
come to search for news about his father, who had boarded a bus for Nimruz
four days before. The vehicle disappeared on the way, one of four buses
that went missing in the past week.
- "We don't know what happened,î he said. ìThere
are so many checkpoints now, and people donít know if the men at
the checkpoints will protect you or kill you."