NEW YORK – President Bush is directing northern alliance forces not to take the capital of Kabul as they battle the ruling Taliban, saying he wants the city to become a base for power-sharing among different tribes in the new Afghanistan.
Bush revealed the Kabul strategy Saturday after discussions with Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. The meeting was set against the backdrop of a United Nations General Assembly devoted almost entirely to the fight against terrorism.
Bush planned to attend a Veteran's Day breakfast on Sunday and meet with the presidents of South Africa, Argentina and Colombia before turning his attention to America's still-tender wound, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The president also was to mark the two-month anniversary of the attacks by taking part in a ceremony at ground zero, the "tomb of rubble" from the collapsed World Trade Center towers. Bush was not scheduled to speak during the ceremony.
Clergy from various faiths were to address the gathering and, during a flag ceremony, actor Ron Silver was to read a roll call of nations that lost citizens in the attacks.
Bush said the ceremony was designed to underscore his mantra that all world nations are in the fight against terrorism together, willingly or not. "If we were to read the names of every person who died, it would take more than three hours," Bush said.
He noted that the dead included a Gambian man who perished one day shy of his fourth wedding anniversary; a young Mexican who sent money home to his wife weekly without fail; and a Pakistani "who prayed toward Mecca five times a day" and gave his life trying to help others around.
"Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th," Bush said. "We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children."
One day after northern alliance forces claimed the strategic city of Mazar-e-Sharif about 200 miles from the Afghan capital, Bush and Musharraf agreed readily that the northern alliance should head south, but must not move into Kabul. The Pakistani leader said doing so could trigger "the same kind of atrocities being perpetuated against the people there" after the Soviet Union left Afghanistan more than a decade ago.
"We share a common view that in order for there to be a country that is stable and peaceful on this good leader's western border, that any power arrangement must be shared with the different tribes within Afghanistan," Bush said. "A key signal of that will be how the city of Kabul is treated."
Afghanistan is comprised of numerous ethnic groups maneuvering now for position in the post-Taliban era. Northern alliance groups include Uzbeks, Tajiks and others, while the Pashtun are predominant in the southern part of the country.