Afghans Bitter About U.S. Rejection of Compromisegreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
From the American press, this is an early indication that the worst fears (and scenario) are beginning to unfold: A war perceived by some adversaries as "West vs. Islam", not a War Against Terrorism, due to tactical mismanagement. Fortunately, it's not yet too late . . .
Afghans Bitter About U.S. Rejection of Compromise
By Sayed Salahuddin, Friday September 21 1:43 PM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, faced with a U.S. ultimatum to hand over Osama bin Laden or go to war, on Friday ignored an edict from clerics and said it was up to the Saudi-born millionaire militant to leave their land. The government's negative response to Thursday's fatwa from 1,000 senior Afghan clerics to urge the world's most wanted man to leave underscored reports of differences emerging in the purist Islamic movement that seized power in Kabul in 1996. ``We are not ready to hand over Osama bin Laden without evidence,'' Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef told a news conference. Thursday's recommendation from the clerics was ``a suggestion ... and not a decision by a judge,'' he said.
The United States has named bin Laden, 44, as a prime suspect in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington which killed more than 6,500 people. It has threatened Kabul with retaliation if it fails to hand him over. Negotiations were not an option, a White House spokesman said. Afghan sources have long reported factional rifts within the hardline Taliban movement. One sign was that its spiritual leader, the reclusive Mullah Mohammad Omar, had failed to name a successor to the cabinet chairman who died several months ago. It initially appeared that the one-eyed Mullah Omar, known as Amir-ul-Momineen (Leader of the Faithful), would follow the clerics' guidance and ask bin Laden to leave the country. This now seems in doubt. The clerics' fatwa would have ended his five-year-long protection under a tradition of the Pashtuns -- Afghanistan's dominant ethnic group -- to guard guests at the cost of their lives. But bin Laden's status as a ``guest'' appeared intact.
``If Osama voluntarily leaves Afghanistan, he may. Otherwise we cannot force him to leave Afghanistan,'' Mullah Zaeef said. The United States had swiftly rejected the clerics' edict, listing demands that went far beyond one man leaving Afghanistan. President Bush said on Thursday he wanted the Taliban to hand over both bin Laden and senior members of his al Qaeda organization, close their training camps and release all foreigners held by the Taliban -- apparently a reference to eight aid workers on trial on charges of promoting Christianity. ``These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate,'' Bush said.
The words angered ordinary Afghans, who said Washington was uniting people behind the Taliban and appeared to be signaling that its quarry was not bin Laden but Islam. ``We don't like or support the Taliban or Osama, but American's policy after the ulemas' (clerics') decision is clearly an indication that this sole world superpower wants to fight against Islam as the Taliban claimed,'' said one grocer. ``The U.S. should revise its stubborn decision and no more bring about a situation whereby youngsters like me join the Taliban against the devil America,'' he said.
In their sermons at Friday prayers, mullahs called on the faithful -- men and women -- to join a holy war, or jihad, that the Taliban has threatened if Washington pursues its lightly armed soldiers with the might of the world's most modern army.
Taliban fighters were already locked in bloody battles in the north against the main opposition Northern Alliance, which said the ruling movement had suffered setbacks. In addition, the leader of Afghanistan's Uzbek minority, General Rashid Dostum, joined the fray, sending his forces against the Taliban.
``WE WILL FIGHT''
``Yes, I will join in the war. I really mean it and my aim is to defend Islam and our country not the Taliban or Osama,'' said one man attending prayers. ``We will fight to the last drop of our blood,'' said a Kabul resident as he entered a mosque for Friday prayers. ``God is Great, God is Great,'' worshippers cried out during midday prayers in mosques across the war-ravaged capital.
In a speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Bush said the evidence the United States had gathered all pointed to bin Laden's organization as responsible for the September 11 attacks and that by ``aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder.'' The rhetoric appeared to make confrontation almost inevitable.
``Jihad is the soul of Islam ... We believe that the time of death will come when Allah wants it and there is no better honor than being martyred,'' Mohammad Muslim Haqqani, the Taliban's deputy higher education minister, told a congregation of several hundred gathered in Kabul's main mosque.
A plea for reason and change came from the 86-year-old ex-king Mohammad Zahir Shah, who has been living in exile in Rome since 1973. He called for an emergency assembly representing all Afghan groups to be convened to elect a head of state and set up a transitional government.
The Taliban has warned that the United States faces a formidable, battle-hardened enemy in Afghanistan, whose people repulsed the British in the 19th century. ``We will never surrender to evil and might,'' the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said.
If bin Laden, believed to be moving with his bodyguards from hiding place to hiding place in Afghanistan's rugged mountains, does leave Afghanistan voluntarily he will face great difficulty finding a country willing to take him in. Even Pakistan, which helped to create the Taliban and is one of only three countries to recognize their government, has voiced full support for the United States.
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It looks like war for sure.
-- LeRoy (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 22, 2001.