consider myself a moderate Northern Alliance skeptic. Meaning that
I thought we should arm the Alliance and aid its push in the north,
but doubted it could rout the Taliban soon and didn't expect
much from it in the political arena.
Well, the Northern
Alliance has, of course, defied all expectations on the battlefield.
And if I'm still a doubter about how productive a role they
or anyone else for that matter will play in post-Taliban
Afghanistan, the Alliance does deserve to be defended from the rankest
and most hypocritical charge levied against it by Pakistani-inspired
critics: that it destroyed the capital city of Kabul when it took
it over in 1992.
We hear this
over and over again in the media. It's one of the reasons Colin
Powell wanted the Northern Alliance to "invest" Kabul,
instead of actually capturing it (one of the most hilariously unworkable
ideas in recent diplomatic history). And it is supposedly the reason
why Pakistan suddenly a great defender of reasonable, pluralistic
government in Afghanistan quakes at the idea of the Northern
Alliance back in the saddle again.
This is all
very rich, since it's Pakistan that, through one of its proxies,
bears most of the responsibility for wrecking Kabul in the early
was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. His name has a Beelzebub-like ring to it,
which is appropriate since he pretty much exemplifies the fanaticism,
ruthlessness, and evil that has characterized recent Afghan history.
He was Pakistan's
favorite mujahedeen leader during the war against the Soviets,
because he was a Pashtun and an Islamic extremist sort of
a Taliban before the Taliban existed. Hekmatyar's faction in the
1970s became famous for throwing acid on women who dressed in Western
clothes. The Pakistanis made a point of funneling U.S. aid to him
even though or, more like it, because he was
When the Communist
government fell in 1992, Hekmatyar decided that he would wage a
campaign to oust the other mujahedeen factions from Kabul.
This he proceed to attempt with artillery barrages that reduced
Kabul to rubble and killed thousands of civilians.
And the Pakistanis
backed him throughout, even when the civil war harmed their economic
interests by making trade routes in Afghanistan impassable.
explains in his book,
were thus faced with a strategic dilemma. Either Pakistan could
carry on backing Hekmatyar in a bid to bring a Pashtun group to
power in Kabul which would be Pakistan-friendly, or it could change
direction and urge for a power-sharing agreement between all the
Afghan factions at whatever the price for the Pashtuns, so that
a stable government could open roads to Central Asia. The Pakistani
military was convinced that other ethnic groups would not do their
bidding and continued to back Hekmatyar.
So, maybe if
the State Department is serious about avoiding another Kabul circa
1992, it should ban Pakistan from all meddling in a post-Taliban
I once floated the idea of handing Pakistan the responsibility of
a post-Taliban Afghanistan, as a way of making it someone else's
problem, but am now convinced the Pakistanis need to be controlled
like any other Afghan faction.)
eventually dropped Hekmatyar, not because he was killing people,
but because he was killing them ineffectually. He was losing the
war. The Pakistanis picked up the Taliban instead, who could kill
and degrade women and actually take over the Afghan government.
Now, we get
news that Hekmatyar is petitioning Pakistan to let him into Peshawar
as a way station to reentering Afghanistan.
Talk of a country
"exorcising its demons" is usually metaphorical, but Hekmatyar
is an actual, living demon. The U.S. should demand that Pakistan
keep him out of Peshawar, and do all it can to keep him out of Afghanistan,
since he is the one who did so much to wreck Kabul the first time