Northern Alliance Commander Blasts Pakistan

A senior Afghan opposition commander accused Pakistan on Saturday of trying to sideline the northern alliance from obtaining a meaningful political role in a post-Taliban government.

Gen. Baba Jan, commander of the alliance forces in Bagram district, charged that the Pakistani government had asked the United States to refrain from bombing the Taliban's front line next to area under his control in order to keep his forces bottled up.

"It's a shame that the Pakistanis are telling the Americans not to bomb the front line because they do not want the northern alliance to have any meaningful role in Kabul in a post-Taliban government," said Baba Jan.

Some observers believe that if the United States bombs the Taliban line north of the capital, the northern alliance could quickly seize Kabul.

Pakistan, a key American ally in the war on terrorism, does not want the rebels in power. A senior Pakistani official said this past week that his government and U.S. officials had agreed the northern alliance should not enter Kabul until a post-Taliban government is in place.

"Pakistan is exploiting the situation for its own benefit," the general told a group of reporters on top of what was once a control tower at an airfield about a mile from the front line.

In Islamabad, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan dismissed the accusations, saying his country supports the formation of a broad-based government "representative of all Afghan people" that would bring about peace and stability.

However, he emphasized that Pakistan wants a multiethnic government in which the majority Pashtun would get their share in proportion to their population. The Taliban are predominantly Pashtun and Sunni Muslims, while the opposition is mostly composed of minorities including Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Shiite Muslims.

Few people believe the northern alliance, which controls 5-10 percent of Afghanistan, could survive as a post-Taliban government because it is viewed with suspicion by the Pashtun majority.

Despite what he said was the lack of U.S. airstrikes on Taliban positions near him, Baba Jan claimed his men were able and ready to advance toward Kabul, some 28 miles to the south, once the alliance's defense ministry gives him the green light.

Speaking separately in Jabal Saraj, northern alliance spokesman Abdullah denied reports that Washington had asked the alliance to keep out of Kabul until a settlement for a post-Taliban government was reached.

Abdullah said alliance troops were ready to advance on Kabul, "perhaps in a matter of days."

The northern alliance has repeatedly promised major offensives in recent days. The Bagram area, despite being close to Kabul, is separated from the city by high mountains controlled by the Taliban, and any advance there would be difficult.