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Minorities resist Karzai plan for pact with Taliban

The drive by President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal with Taliban leaders and their Pakistani backers is causing deep unease in Afghanistan...

Written by New York Times | Kabul | Published: June 28, 2010 1:36:13 am

The drive by President Hamid Karzai to strike a deal with Taliban leaders and their Pakistani backers is causing deep unease in Afghanistan’s minority communities,who fought the Taliban the longest and suffered the most during their rule.

The leaders of the country’s Tajik,Uzbek and Hazara communities,which make up close to half of Afghanistan’s population,are vowing to resist — and if necessary,fight— any deal that involves bringing members of the Taliban insurgency into a power-sharing arrangement with the government.

Alienated by discussions between Karzai and Pakistan,minority leaders are taking their first steps toward organising against what they fear is Karzai’s long-held desire to restore the dominance of ethnic Pashtuns.

The dispute is breaking along lines nearly identical to those that formed during the final years of the Afghan civil war. The Taliban,during their five-year reign in Kabul carried out several large-scale massacres of Hazara civilians.

“Karzai is giving Afghanistan back to the Taliban,and he is opening up the old schisms,” said Rehman Oghly,an Uzbek member of Parliament. “If he wants to bring in the Taliban,and they begin to use force,then we will go back to civil war and Afghanistan will be split.”

The deepening estrangement of Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun communities presents a paradox for the Americans. American commanders have concluded that only a political settlement can end the war. But in helping Karzai to make a deal,they risk reigniting Afghanistan’s ethnic strife.

Adm Mike Mullen,chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,said he was worried about “the Tajik-Pashtun divide that has been so strong.” American and NATO leaders,he said,are trying to stifle any return to ethnic violence. “It has the potential to really tear this country apart,” Admiral Mullen said.

Afghanistan’s minorities — especially the ethnic Tajiks — have always been the most reliable American allies,and made up the bulk of the anti-Taliban Army that the Americans aided following the September 11 attacks in 2001. President Karzai recently decided to remove Bismullah Khan,the chief of staff of the Afghan Army,and make him the Interior Minister instead. Khan is an ethnic Tajik. Another source of tension was the resignation of Armullah Saleh,the head of Afghan intelligence service and an ethnic Tajik.

Abdullah Abdullah,the former foreign minister,has also been hosting gatherings. Abdullah,who is of Pashtun and Tajik heritage,said he disagreed with the thrust of Karzai’s policy of engagement with the Taliban.

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