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Afghan Warlord Muddles Interim Government's Plans - NY Times

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  • Zafar Khan
    Afghan Warlord Muddles Interim Government s Plans By DAVID ROHDE http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/21/international/asia/21AFGH.html?todaysheadlines KHOST,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 21, 2002
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      Afghan Warlord Muddles Interim Government's Plans
      By DAVID ROHDE

      http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/21/international/asia/21AFGH.html?todaysheadlines

      KHOST, Afghanistan, May 20 ? Over the last three
      weeks, Afghanistan's interim leader has declared him a
      wanted killer. A handpicked successor has been
      dispatched here to dethrone him, and 3,000 government
      troops in Kabul have been put on alert to attack him.

      But today Padsha Khan Zadran did what he has done for
      the last several months: laughed at Hamid Karzai and
      his interim government in Kabul. "Mr. Karzai has some
      problem with his mind," Mr. Zadran said this
      afternoon, as a smug grin spread across his leathery
      face. "He is nothing. He is a common man."

      Three weeks after Mr. Karzai demanded Mr. Zadran's
      arrest, this warlord is the most glaring example in
      Afghanistan of the central government's inability to
      control events outside of Kabul, the capital.

      Mr. Zadran still controls large swathes of Khost and
      Paktia province, strategic areas where American forces
      are hunting for Al Qaeda fighters. The threatened
      military attack is on hold. Further, Mr. Zadran, a
      fierce, illiterate man brimming with bluster, appears
      to have grown even bolder.

      After delivering his usual taunts aimed at Mr. Karzai
      this afternoon, Mr. Zadran announced that he would
      attend the loya jirga, a grand council of leaders and
      tribal elders from around the country planned for
      mid-June that will choose a government for the next
      two years.

      His goal? To unseat Mr. Karzai. "I will send my
      representatives and I will go myself," he said as he
      sat in the governor's complex here that he was ordered
      to leave months ago. "Karzai is only a temporary
      chairman. Nobody supports him."

      Mr. Zadran's threat is largely empty. He is unlikely
      to go to the loya jirga, where he could easily be
      arrested. But he remains a glaring failure for the
      Karzai government as political violence appears to be
      spreading gradually. A man was shot dead Sunday after
      winning the first of two rounds to represent the
      western district of Chaghcharan at the loya jirga. It
      was the first killing to mar the selection process.

      Mr. Zadran's position here appears intact. Scores of
      men toting assault rifles and wearing bandoleers
      milled around the governor's complex here today. A
      dozen tribal elders lined up outside his door to pay
      their respects. Hakim Taniwal, the soft-spoken
      sociology professor sent to unseat him, remains in the
      governor's official guest house a mile away.

      Western diplomats and some of Mr. Zadran's Afghan
      rivals blame the United States military for propping
      him up. American Special Forces have hired 600 of Mr.
      Zadran's soldiers and 500 of Mr. Taniwal's soldiers to
      help seal the nearby border with Pakistan, a move that
      rivals say inflates Mr. Zadran's political and
      economic power.

      In an interview tonight, Mr. Taniwal, an Afghan exile
      who left his wife and children and a comfortable
      teaching position in Melbourne, Australia, to take on
      Mr. Zadran, said he was the one who asked Mr. Karzai
      to hold off on a military attack.

      Wearing white trousers and tunic and a prayer cap in a
      room full of ferocious-looking men in black turbans,
      he looked and sounded like the out-of-place academic
      he is in Khost. A volatile provincial capital near the
      Pakistan border, Khost was once a Qaeda and Taliban
      stronghold.

      "I want to remove the Kalashnikov culture," he said,
      using the name of a popular rifle to refer to the
      decade-old Afghan practice of resolving political
      disputes with force. "I am a teacher, not a
      commander."

      He proceeded to lay out a strategy that was a
      microcosm of the gamble Mr. Karzai's government and
      his American backers appear to be taking across
      Afghanistan. Instead of confronting Mr. Zadran with
      force, Mr. Taniwal hopes to bury his rival with cash.

      Mr. Taniwal is mounting a two-pronged effort to show
      local residents and local gunmen that he has the funds
      from international donors to pay salaries. At the same
      time, he is trying to cut off Mr. Zadran's access to
      all local government agencies that produce revenue.

      "I am cutting his sources," Mr. Taniwal proudly
      announced tonight. "He cannot pay his people." He went
      on to predict optimistically that Mr. Zadran would
      surrender to the authorities before the loya jirga
      convenes on June 10.

      The same dynamic is occurring on a national scale. The
      United States and other countries are funneling much
      of their aid money through Kabul to give Mr. Karzai
      economic leverage over defiant warlords.

      But this morning Mr. Zadran insisted that he still
      controlled revenue-producing offices in the local
      government. There is also a panoply of practices ?
      like smuggling ? that Mr. Zadran and other warlords
      can use to raise cash.

      This afternoon, he held court in the governor's office
      as a dozen elders from his native Zadran tribe paid
      their respects. He looked on like a beaming father
      when one tribal leader assailed Mr. Karzai for
      unfairly attacking Mr. Zadran. He then stood up and
      excused himself. "I have many tribal leaders who have
      come to see me," he said. "I have to go."



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