Locals vie to fill power vacuum in Afghanistan

War On Terrorism : The World

November 16, 2001|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

POL-E CHARKHI, Afghanistan - In a 10-minute span yesterday afternoon, three different cars arrived here from towns ruled by three different Afghan warlords.

The first car arrived from Jalalabad, where a local political leader named Mawlawi Yunis Khalis has declared himself ruler, rejecting the Northern Alliance and the Taliban's authority.

The second came from the nearby city of Towr Kham, where a local commander named Hazrati Ali has seized power. The third arrived from Sorubi, where Ezatullah, a local commander with only one name, has created his own fief.

All three arrived at a Northern Alliance checkpoint set up near Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, one of five provinces where Taliban forces have fled but Northern Alliance forces have failed to establish control.

Three days after the fall of Kabul, power vacuums in outlying provinces are being filled by local military commanders, political leaders and anyone with a gun. Parts of Afghanistan are beginning to present the same picture of lawlessness that led to the rise of the Taliban in the mid-1990s.

"The local people who have guns are now powerful," said Musa, a 30-year-old baker from Towr Kham. "We need some security."

The only direct front line that still exists between the alliance and Taliban forces is 100 miles southwest of Kabul near the city of Ghazni. Elsewhere, warlords seem to have established fiefs as former Taliban leaders melt away and rival groups within the dominant ethnic Pashtun group battle for the spoils.

How the United States and its Western allies might impose some unity here remains unclear.

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