UNITED NATIONS – As Northern Alliance forces consolidated their grip on Kabul Tuesday, plans began to emerge for a post-Taliban, United Nations-supported transitional government that would include all of Afghanistan's major ethnic groups.
At U.N. headquarters in New York, the global body's special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, presented an outline to the Security Council to bring a government together "as early as humanly possible."
Under his proposal, a provisional council made up of both Alliance representatives and other groups would be convened to form a transitional government. During that period, a loya jirga, or grand council of prominent Afghans, would draw up a constitution, and a second gathering would approve it and create a permanent Afghan government.
Brahimi added that the provisional council should be headed "by an individual recognized as a symbol of national unity," apparently referring to the 87-year-old exiled Afghan king, Mohammed Zaher Shah.
Afghanistan is split between Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara, Turkmen — who make up the bulk of the Northern Alliance — and last but not least, Pashtuns, who claim to be a majority and who dominate the Taliban. The king, a Pashtun, is seen as the only figure who can unify the country.
Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, warned that turning around "a collapsed and destitute state" that has become a breeding ground for terrorists would require the political and financial support of all nations.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan wants Brahimi's deputy to travel to Kabul soon, and the United Nations is eager to try to get its staff back into the country and to deliver humanitarian aid.
Brahimi said a government ruled by Afghans "would be far more credible than one run by U.N. officials parachuted in," he said.
Northern Alliance fighters rolled into Kabul Tuesday morning after Taliban troops slipped away under cover of darkness, abandoning the capital without a fight.
As the sun rose over the Hindu Kush mountains, Kabul residents shouted out congratulations, honked car horns and rang bells on their bicycles. Men shaved off beards — mandated by the Taliban — and the sounds of music returned after having been banned by the Islamic militia.
A few hours later, the Northern Alliance's foreign minister, Abdullah, welcomed U.N. involvement.
"We have ... invited the United Nations to send their teams in Kabul in order to help us in the peace process," said Abdullah, who uses only one name, speaking at a news conference.
Abdullah had driven into the city at midday with alliance Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim , followed by 3,000 special security troops in cars festooned with pictures of the late alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massood, who was assassinated two days before the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.
Referring to American requests that the alliance stay out of Kabul until a transitional government could be formed, Abdullah said his side's troops had planned to stop in the outskirts, but was obliged to enter the city because unruly elements were causing trouble.
"There was no option for us but to send our security forces into Kabul," he said.
Whatever unruly elements may have existed melted away, as alliance soldiers roamed Kabul and the bodies of Taliban fighters, many of them foreigners, littered the streets.
Five Pakistanis thought to be Taliban volunteers were killed in a shootout early Tuesday, witnesses said. Their bodies lay in a public park hours later. Alliance troops were setting up roadblocks on streets where Arabs and others associated with Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda movement had been living.
The bodies of two dead Arabs lay on the street near a U.N. guest house. Close to the bodies were rocket launchers and a rifle.
Reuters reported that the bodies of several other Arabs, who had climbed into trees to shoot at entering alliance troops, dangled from the branches and lay sprawled on the ground.
Alliance soldiers stood guard outside the offices of some international aid organizations. Some, however, appeared to have been looted. "Some illegal people went through and took everything from the offices," said Ghulam Ali, an elderly resident.
As the Taliban retreated, they took eight foreign aid workers accused of spreading Christianity in Muslim Afghanistan, including two Americans,witnesses told The Associated Press.
"I saw them with my own eyes. They put them in the truck and then left at midnight. They said they are going to Kandahar," said Ajmal Mir, a guard at the abandoned detention center in the heart of the city where the eight had been held.
From the rooftop of the Intercontinental Hotel on a hill overlooking Kabul columns of Taliban vehicles could be seen heading south beginning Monday night. The exodus continued after sunrise.
The Taliban forces were said to be heading toward the town of Maidan Shahr, about 25 miles south of Kabul. As they had in the north of the country, the Taliban appeared to have decided to surrender territory rather than fight.
Abdullah denied reports that Taliban troops had been massacred in areas the alliance captured during the five-day sweep that brought all of northern Afghanistan under its control.
The United Nations reported Tuesday that more than 100 Taliban fighters hiding in a school were executed in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday.
Abdullah added that the situation in the southern city of Kandahar — birthplace and headquarters of the Taliban — was "chaotic" and that there was a popular uprising against Taliban rule in the northeastern city of Jalalabad.
Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arabic satellite television channel, reported later on Tuesday that the Jalalabad uprising against the Taliban had succeeded.
There were also signs that the Taliban were abandoning other urban centers, possibly to withdraw into the remote southern mountains to wage guerrilla war:
• In Kandahar, a resident contacted by telephone said many Taliban figures appeared to have left the city, except for uniformed militia police.
• Along the Pakistani border at Chaman, Taliban official Mullah Najibullah said about 200 former guerrillas had mutinied against the Taliban in Kandahar. The report could not be independently confirmed.
• Taliban guards Tuesday abandoned the Torkham border station along the Pakistani frontier. A group of local Afghan elders was trying to sort out who would man the station, near the Pakistani city of Peshawar.
During an appearance Monday night on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said the alliance's move on Kabul was "dangerous" because "we are now getting information that there are certain atrocities being perpetrated in Mazar-e-Sharif."
"And that is exactly my apprehension that we have seen a lot of atrocities, a lot of killings between the various ethnic groups in Kabul after the Soviets left, and that's why we are of the opinion that Kabul should be maintained as a demilitarized city," Musharraf said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report