Thursday, October 09, 2003

WARLORD-DISPUTE UPDATE: The Associated Press' Amir Shah (one of the few journalists in Kabul when it fell) is reporting that Atta Mohammad and Dostum have signed a U.N-brokered cease-fire...

After fighting that killed dozens of people, rival warlords in northern Afghanistan said Thursday that they had reached a truce and would begin withdrawing tanks and other weapons within 48 hours. But with soldiers squared off along a tense battlefield, it was not clear whether the cease-fire would hold despite assurances from both sides. The fighting between the two groups "both nominally loyal to President Hamid Karzai" was the worst in northern Afghanistan in months, with one side claiming more than 60 people were killed.

One warlord, Atta Mohammed, said the truce took effect immediately and that both sides would return all weaponry to their bases in 48 hours. "I am sure this cease-fire will hold," Mohammed told The Associated Press. Gen. Majid Rozi, a senior commander for northern warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, confirmed the details of the truce and said the withdrawal of weapons had begun. The agreement followed talks involving Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali and British Ambassador Ron Nash.

"If there is no peace in the north of the country, it will damage the trust the international community has in us," Jalali said after the signing of the truce on Thursday.


It was not immediately clear what sparked the fighting. A government spokesman in Kabul said it was most likely due to disputes over land or access to water, the cause of repeated clashes in the past two years. The U.S. military in Afghanistan said it was concerned about the fighting and was closely monitoring it. Hours after the signing of the truce, the battlefield was still tense, commanders said, and it was not clear whether the deal would hold.

Residents of Mazar-e-Sharif were less than optimistic. "I do not believe in this cease-fire. It will just collapse," said Abdul Kadir, a guest house owner. Another resident, a teacher who only gave her name as Aziza, said foreign peacekeepers were needed to stop the fighting. "Please Mr. Karzai send ... (peacekeeping) troops to Mazar-e-Sharif," she said.
These kinds of cease-fires have been signed several times (under international pressure and pressure from Kabul) in the past 2 years, but they're not permanent truces; they won't prevent further bloodshed. The last few months have been a calm period for the warlords, and instead focus was on the Taliban insurgence. Maybe we can tell General Abizaid (Lebanese-American by the way) to fight the warlords the way he fights the Taliban: with B-52 bombers.

And the Contra Costa Time has the background story on Karzai's new Afghan ambassador to the United States, Said Jawan, an Afghan-American living in Oakland. Maybe I'll meet him when I go to the Afghan embassy in two weeks.


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