Afghan civilians at risk in Alliance takeover

The airwaves have been buzzing with reports of the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance taking Kabul and other major cities in Afghanistan.

Many media outlets, including The New York Times, published graphic photos of Northern Alliance atrocities, thus calling into question the U.S. government’s support for the anti-Taliban military alliance.

President George Bush responded with mixed message, implying that whatever atrocities were committed the victims deserved because of the repression and atrocities wrought by the Taliban. But then, in an attempt to back off from that comment, Bush said the U.S. would work to ensure restraint on the part of the Northern Alliance.

The United Nations spoke of a mass execution by the Northern Alliance in the conquered city of Mazar-e-Sharif, while the International Committee of the Red Cross reported “hundreds” of deaths in the city, although it did not say how many, if any, were execution victims.

Amnesty International reported that atrocities have been committed by both the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. “Both the Taliban forces and those opposed to them have been responsible for grave abuses, including indiscriminate killings of civilians and ethnically targeted killings,” it said in a recent report.

In a Nov. 13 statement, the Revolutionary Afghan Women’s Association (RAWA) applauded the Taliban’s “retreat,” but strongly cautioned the world on the criminal nature of “some bands” in the Northern Alliance.

RAWA called for the U.N. to send in peacekeeping forces to help stabilize the situation and guarantee the human and democratic rights of the Afghan people.

The U.N. Security Council was meeting Nov. 14 to discuss a blueprint for a post-Taliban government.

Earlier, the U.N. urged Afghan groups to meet “as early as humanly possible” on forming a transitional government backed by an international force. One of the chief concerns is guaranteeing a government that can unite the main ethnic communities of Afghanistan.

The majority nationality, the Pashtuns, reportedly made up the base of support for the Taliban while Tajiks and Uzbeks, ethnic minorities in Afghanistan, make up the Northern Alliance.

While the Northern Alliance announced that Afghan women can work and girls can go to school, both activities banned by the Taliban, the role of women in the post-Taliban government has not been clearly defined.

The Bush administration is trying to impose its agenda on this fluid situation. Media analysts speculate on whether the Bush administration wants such uncensored coverage of the atrocities to justify U.S. ground troops and a permanent military presence.

U.S. jets continue to bomb the Taliban and U.S. ground forces trained for heavy weather situations are in neighboring Uzbekistan, leading many to believe that no matter what the make-up of a post-Taliban government, or any peacekeeping forces, the Bush administration will be in charge.

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid, which had been suspended because of safety concerns, has begun to trickle in again. The gravity of both the refugee and food crisis in Afghanistan is prompting alarm among aid groups.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 3,000 Afghan refugees entered northwestern Pakistan on Nov. 13 alone, adding to the 135,000 Afghans who have entered Pakistan since Sept. 11.

As winter sets in food delivery is of utmost importance. According to the World Food Program six million people are in urgent need of food, yet they have supplies for only one-third of that number.

Unicef Director Carol Bellamy warned that time is running out, “In Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of people will be helplessly exposed to the elements this winter, no matter which authority sits in Kabul.”