U.S. opposes seizing of Kabul by rebels

Bush says Afghan peace requires shared power

Pakistan offers warning

War On Terrorism

November 11, 2001|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

UNITED NATIONS - President Bush said last night in New York City that the opposition Northern Alliance in Afghanistan should avoid seizing Kabul, and Pakistan's president warned of civilian atrocities if the alliance did so.

Bush said that how the capital fares would send an important signal on whether Afghanistan emerges from the war as a stable and peaceful nation, with all its ethnic groups represented.

His statement exposed an ambivalent attitude toward the fighters who are acting as proxy ground troops for the United States in trying to destroy the Taliban regime.

"We will encourage our friends to head south, across the Shomali plains, but not into the city of Kabul itself," Bush said.

He spoke at a news conference with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who despite backing the U.S.-led war remains a harsh critic of the Northern Alliance.

Musharraf, recalling "total atrocities, killings and mayhem" in Kabul after the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, said that if the Northern Alliance were to capture the city, "we'll see the same kind of atrocities being perpetrated there."

Asked if he agreed, Bush changed the subject.

The alliance includes Uzbeks, Tajiks and others. Most of the Pashtun, Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, live in the south.

The possibility of the alliance's capturing Kabul seemed distant until Friday, when the rebels achieved their first major victory by taking the strategic city of Mazar-e Sharif, more than 200 miles northwest of the capital.

Bush, who met with Musharraf while in New York for a speech at the United Nations, announced at least a doubling of America's financial reward to Pakistan for cooperating in the war on terrorism.

Bush said the aid would total "over $1 billion." Previously, U.S. officials had talked about $500 million in aid. A senior administration official would not offer specifics, but said the package includes direct budget support, refugee and border-security aid, and debt forgiveness.

Pakistan's cooperation is crucial to the war effort. It includes use of its airspace and two of its military bases, intelligence sharing and logistical help, provided despite angry opposition by Taliban sympathizers in Pakistan.

The United States, however, rejected Pakistan's request for delivery of the 28 F-16 warplanes that Pakistan bought in the 1980s, when it was an ally against the Soviets. Washington blocked release of the aircraft as punishment for Pakistan's secret development of nuclear weapons.

While pledging to remain firmly committed to the war, Musharraf made clear during an earlier speech at the United Nations that he has strong misgivings about elements of the overall U.S. strategy.

He stressed that the war should be as "short and accurately targeted as possible," though he did not repeat a call for a bombing halt during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins about Nov. 17.

Going after terrorists should be only part of the strategy, Musharraf said, calling for strong efforts to settle regional disputes, such as the India-Pakistan struggle over Kashmir, in "a just manner."

He linked the Kashmiris' fight with the Palestinians' battle for a homeland, saying, "The world must not trample on the rights, aspirations and urges of people fighting for liberation [who are] subjected to state terrorism."

Pakistanis, he said, "suffer from a sense of betrayal and abandonment" from being "left in the lurch" when the United States lost interest in Pakistan after the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan in 1989.

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