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Boasting that “we will save Afghanistan,” a new anti-Taliban opposition group has arisen, seeking to end the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan while establishing a new government – one that is still “in line” with Islam.
The new group is led by Pir Sayed Ahmed Gailani – a former mujahedin leader, spiritual head of a Sufi Muslim sect and descendant of Mohammed – who has undertaken the task of uniting rival tribal groups into an organized armed body of fighters dedicated to the overthrow of the Taliban regime.
Gailani’s organization is called the “Southern Alliance” and is comprised of “Afghan dissidents and expatriates” who seek, among other goals, the return to Afghanistan of that nation’s former king, Zahir Shah.
The internationally respected Italian daily Corriere Della Sera described the advent of the new armed group in “I capi tribu laciano l’Alleanza del Sud” (translated: “Tribal leaders launch the Southern Alliance”).
The Southern Alliance is seeking to influence local Taliban commanders to desert the ruling regime and join those already active in fighting Taliban rule. The result, the Southern Alliance hopes, is a powerful grass-roots rebellion.
The group’s name indicates the region in Afghanistan where it has its main support. It consists primarily of ethnic Pashtuns.
The Southern Alliance joins the already existing Northern Alliance in armed opposition to the Taliban.
Gailani’s personality is essential for the group’s cohesion. The article describes Gailani as “a man with a charisma appropriate for reconciling quarrelsome … ethnic Pashtuns.” Dressing in traditional Afghan religious garments, Gailani continually urges his followers – and potential followers – to “unite our forces” for the overthrow of the Taliban, as he calls for the cessation of U.S. military operations against his country.
Ironically, Gailani’s call for unity threatens to split the anti-Taliban movement. While Gailani calls for “unity that includes the representatives of the army of God,” the question arises as to what kind of government will follow the downfall of the Taliban.
Some, including participants in the Northern Alliance, would allow Taliban “moderates” some sort of role in a new government.
Gailani, however, appears opposed to any Taliban representation.
The government Gailani seeks to install in Afghanistan would be “in line with the Islamic religion” and would welcome the suggestions of students from Islamic religious schools. “Koran students who share our ideas should approach us,” Gailani stated, according to the article.
Another point of possible conflict in a post-Taliban environment would revolve around the role, if any, of the United Nations in Afghan affairs.
Many of those opposed to the Taliban regime also would refuse any role of the U.N. in the establishment of a new Afghan government.
Gailani, however, would welcome U.N. assistance in installing a new regime in Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said earlier this week that he envisions U.N. involvement in the new government.
The Southern Alliance has met with representatives of the Northern Alliance in order to coordinate political concepts and activities.
One point of unity among rebel Afghan factions is the deposed Afghan king.
Regarded as a force for progress in Afghanistan, Shah assumed the throne at age 19 in 1933, following his father’s assassination, and ruled until being deposed in 1973. A Marxist government soon came to power, followed by a Soviet invasion to support that government, years of civil war, and ultimately Taliban forces assuming control of most of the country.
Shah stated that he is prepared to return to his country and play an active role in a post-Taliban government.