U.S.: Mullah Omar Has to Go
NewsMax.com Wires United Press International
Friday, September 28, 2001
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The United States is believed to have told Pakistan that expelling suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan will not be enough and that Taliban leader Mullah Omar also has to go, senior Pakistani officials said.
The officials told United Press International that the United States insisted on Omar's removal when Pakistan told U.S. negotiators they were against bringing the opposition Northern Alliance to Kabul as the new rulers of Afghanistan.
"Replacing Omar and bringing in a new leadership from within the Taliban is one of the options the two sides are discussing," said a Pakistani official.
Pakistani officials said the United States would welcome a move in which Pakistan succeeds in toppling the present Taliban leadership with the help of Taliban dissidents.
"But if Pakistan fails and an international force has to enter Afghanistan, it will not go for bin Laden alone," said another official. "Mullah Omar will also be a target of this force."
The United States and Pakistan are also believed to have agreed on a broad-based government to replace the Taliban regime.
A future government would include people from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Taliban dissidents, supporters of the former Afghan King Zahir Shah, people from various ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan and Afghan intellectuals living abroad, sources said.
"Both (Pakistan and the United States) agree that Afghanistan needs a broad-based and representative government ... and that government can't be made up from the outside," a U.S. State Department spokesman said Thursday.
He said the two countries also shared "the goal of ending the use of Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorists."
The United Nations has also called for establishing a broad-based interim coalition government in Afghanistan. That call was made by Francesco Vendrell, the personal representative of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, at a news conference in Islamabad on Thursday.
He said the Security Council and the General Assembly had asked for a political settlement of the Afghan crisis and for the establishment of a broad-based government in that country.
Soon after the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, U.S. officials told Pakistan they believed Afghanistan would continue to be "a haven for terrorists" as long as the Taliban militia ruled the country.
The Pakistanis apparently accepted Washington's argument but opposed replacing the Taliban with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, a group of Afghan political parties opposed to Pakistan and having close relations with India, Russia and Iran.
They argued that having a Northern Alliance government would restore the pre-Afghan war (1979-89) situation when Pakistan was sandwiched between hostile neighbors India and Afghanistan. A friendly government in Kabul, they said, "freed Pakistan from the fears of a combined attack from both the eastern (India) and western (Afghanistan) borders."
While showing sympathy to the Pakistani position, the United States argued that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had created "a new situation" and "the Pakistanis, the Indians and the Afghans ... will all require some new thinking."
However, U.S. officials negotiating Pakistan's cooperation with the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, "acknowledged the importance of Pakistan's argument and agreed not to push for a Northern Alliance government in Kabul," said a Pakistani official.
While not confirming or denying the Pakistani claim, a spokesman for the State Department said the United States had contacted people outside the Northern Alliance as well.
"We have had some contact with the Northern Alliance. We have had contact with former king Zahir Shah in Rome. And we have had contact with others. We keep in touch with various factions inside Afghanistan, as well as people outside the country who care," he said.
Officials in Islamabad described this as reassuring because they said that at one stage it seemed as if "the United States had already decided to bring the Northern Alliance to Kabul."
The Taliban - students of Muslim seminaries - emerged as an organized force in 1994 and in less than two years they captured the Afghan capital, Kabul. But only three countries - Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - had recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government in Kabul.
The rest of the world rejected the Taliban because of its harsh religious policies and its discrimination against women and religious minorities. They continued to support ousted President Burhanuddin Rabbani, whom the Northern Alliance supports.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, Saudi Arabia and the UAE broke their ties with the Taliban. Pakistan has withdrawn its diplomatic staff from Kabul but has allowed the Taliban Embassy in Islamabad to function as "a window for the outside world to communicate with the Taliban," a government official said.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.