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Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.

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Mariam Ghani
Zohra Saed
Massoud Hosseini
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Arian Mouj Sharifi
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The brewing political power struggle in Kabul (AP/SANA, AFP, CSM, RN)
REGION: Karzai faces split in coalition government * Northern Alliance leaders meet to discuss withdrawal of support for the president, consider alternate candidate * Former president Burhanuddin Rabbani might be a candidate * Karzai reacts angrily * Says members in break-away talks represent coalition minority KABUL: Hamid Karzai, the interim Afghan leader who announced his candidacy for president Wednesday during a high-profile speaking tour of the United States and Britain, has returned home to confront an open political revolt by powerful rivals in his fragile coalition government. Leaders of the Northern Alliance, the predominantly ethnic Tajik militia movement that includes the defence minister and a half-dozen regional militia bosses, held an unusual meeting here last week during Karzais absence. Over the past three days, several spokesmen said the group has decided not to support Karzais run for the presidency and to field its own candidate instead. The threatened internal defection from Karzai comes at a critical time for Afghanistans troubled transition to democracy, already a source of concern to the Bush administration, which strongly backs Karzai. Siddiq Chakari, a spokesman for former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, said the group would nominate Rabbani, an elderly Islamic scholar and ethnic Tajik who headed the Northern Alliance government of the early 1990s. But other sources said the movement was seeking an alternative candidate from Karzais Pashtun ethnic group, the countrys largest. Karzai reacted angrily to the reports, saying he was fed up with coalition government and that the Islamic militias had destroyed the results of their struggle against Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Speaking on BBC Afghan-language radio on Monday, he said he had no objection to anyone running against him, but that if the Northern Alliance leaders sought to disrupt order, he would act against them. Anyone can be a candidate against me, but no party can have military force, no military men can form a party, and no one can write on a tank or an artillery piece that it belongs to this or that party, he warned. The countrys new political parties law expressly prohibits military or armed parties. The political wrangling also comes as Karzai grapples with a recent upsurge in attacks by Taliban and Al Qaeda militants against American forces, aid workers and the US-backed government. Today (Tuesday) marks the second anniversary of the October 7, 2001, launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, the US war that ousted the Taliban. About 11,500 US-led coalition troops are still hunting down holdouts who appear to have regrouped in the past few months. Leaders of the Northern Alliance - the mainly ethnic-Tajik grouping of militia leaders, some of whom are members of the government - have met several times in the past week to consider various alternative candidates for the elections, said Hafiz Mansour, publisher of a weekly newspaper, Payum-i-Majahid, which represents the Northern Alliance. Karzais government has failed to rebuild this country. We are looking for another candidate to run in his place, he told The Associated Press. This is a major threat to his government. There was discussion of cutting political ties with Karzai, finding another candidate and creating a new political party, Hafiz Mansour, publisher of a weekly magazine that represents Northern Alliance views, said of last weeks meeting. It is too early to say the results, but what is clear is that from now on, Karzai will be isolated. Before leaving for the West two weeks ago, Karzai suddenly announced a flurry of reforms that challenged the power of his internal opponents. First, he made official the long-planned shuffle of 22 senior posts in the Defence Ministry, aimed at creating more ethnic balance and professionalism in an institution dominated by the minister and his ethnic militia coterie. Second, in the wake of an embarrassing land-grab scandal that implicated numerous senior officials, Karzai unexpectedly announced that no government vice presidents or deputies could take official actions in his absence. Over the past several months, he had moved to rein in individual provincial militia bosses. Karzai did these things to show he was powerful to the international community and to weaken the Northern Alliance, Mansour said, suggesting that the moves had provoked the groups leaders to respond. It is certain there will be no military action against him, he added, but the lack of cooperation by government leaders and military officials could inflict fatal damage on him. He declined to name the leaders involved. He said discussions were ongoing to choose a presidential candidate. A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Omar Samad, acknowledged that there had been a series of meetings by frustrated coalition members, but said they did not represent a threat to Karzai, a member of the Pashtun ethnic group, the countrys largest. When a country moves toward a more democratic system you get people disagreeing with each and at certain times they may run against each other, he said. But its too early to characterize it as opposition. He said the members involved in the breakaway talks represented only a small part of the coalition government. This is all right so long as things dont turn violent. We need to make sure we keep it within the bounds of civil discourse and dont resort to violence, he added. One of the most contentious issues in Afghanistan in recent weeks has been the constitution. Karzai is expected to make public a draft copy of it in the next week. Womens rights and the role of Shariah, or Islamic law, have been the most hotly debated matters. Some of the 35 members of the Constitutional Review Commission have said the document aims to revolutionize the way women are treated in this devoutly Muslim country. It also declares Afghanistan a Muslim state but stops short of imposing Shariah. AP/SANA ---------------- Afghan Defense Minister Denies Challenge to President, AFP Says Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim denied holding talks in Kabul on choosing a candidate to oppose President Hamid Karzai in next year's election, Agence France-Presse reported. Fahim said a recent meeting in the capital of military commanders and leaders of the Northern Alliance was to discuss the proposed new constitution and security in the country. The Northern Alliance helped oust the Taliban regime in 2001. ``The meetings in Kabul had nothing to do with the future elections or who should be the leader of the participants of this gathering at the next elections,'' Fahim, who is also first vice president, told a news conference yesterday, as cited by AFP. Karzai is a member of the Pashtun ethnic group. The ``power'' ministries of defense, interior and foreign affairs are held by Tajiks, who were at the forefront of the U.S.-led campaign to remove the Taliban. Karzai's government last month approved defense ministry changes aimed at reducing the dominance of Tajiks, the British Broadcasting Corp. said at the time. The government will ban political parties from having militias and bar army members from political involvement, Karzai said last week, as cited by the BBC. (Agence France-Presse 10-7) ---------------------------------- Christian Science Monitor October 17, 2003, Friday Brewing power struggle in Kabul By Halima Kazem Carving a pathway for travelers and warriors alike, Afghanistan's crystalline Panjshir River has long been the guide through the mountainous northern provinces. Today, many of the valley's lush fields are lined with rows of new Russian military tanks and rocket launchers. This new stockpile, along with most of the country's artillery reserves and a 50,000-strong militia, are under the thumb of the Afghan minister of defense, Mohammed Qasim Fahim. As a top leader in the Northern Alliance - the primary military faction that joined with the US to oust the Taliban - Mr. Fahim is making no secret of the fact that he and his fellow ethnic Tajiks are not willing to be sidelined during the run-up to next year's elections. A power struggle between Fahim and President Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, has Western diplomats and coalition commanders concerned. Any change in leadership is seen as an unwanted distraction from the process of nationbuilding and the war on terrorism. Following the assassination of Ahmad Shah Masood in September 2001, Fahim seized the leadership of the Northern Alliance and made a name for himself by assisting US-led forces in toppling the Taliban government in Kabul. He has since risen to the top of the heap of this fragmented country. Many see Mr. Karzai, whose cabinet is made up mostly of Northern Alliance loyalists, in a weaker position than Fahim with his considerable military resources. 'Safekeeping' Sitting in an oversized chair detailed in gold in Kabul's heavily fortified Ministry of Defense, Fahim denies that the materiel and manpower tucked away in Panjshir - his home region and the Northern Alliance's former stronghold - is for his own personal use. "As the minister of defense of Afghanistan, I can assure you that I don't have any private militias," Fahim told the Monitor in a rare interview. "Any weapons that I have belong to the ministry of defense and are just being stored in Panjshir for safekeeping." But Fahim's forswearing of any private forces comes on the heals of a new Afghan government law banning warlords from taking part in the country's politics. Critics suggest that the force is Fahim's ace in the hole, a backup option easily activated for a march on Kabul if his political ambitions are thwarted. Fahim says he is not considering running for president at this time nor has he endorsed anyone else. "As soon as rumors arose that a presidential candidate was announced I held a press conference and cleared up the matter that no candidate were discussed. I made it clear that we will wait until the constitution is approved and then we will discuss presidential elections," he says, referring to reports last week claimed that Fahim and other political groups had met in Kabul while Karzai was out of the country to choose another presidential candidate. Vikram Parekh, senior Afghanistan analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group says Fahim will not run for president because his power base has narrowed immensely. "The Northern Alliance is very fragmented now and there is a lot of resentment towards Fahim because he uses his powers as the minister of defense to maintain his own forces," Mr. Parekh says. However, Fahim does have his eye on the prime minister's position, a role outlined in the draft of Afghanistan's new constitution. At this point, sources say, the prime minister will be appointed by the president and not by a parliament. The details of the prime minister's powers will be finalized during the constitutional loya jirga, or grand assembly, scheduled for late December. "I see the president of Afghanistan as a symbolic figure that the people elect to oversee things, but the prime minister will be running the country," says Fahim. "I am very fond of a division of power." But it's unclear if that's how Karzai and the drafters envision that position. Afghan Presidential spokesperson Jawed Ludin says Karzai will not discuss the contents of the draft of the constitution until it is released to the public in the next couple of weeks. At no cost though, does Fahim want to give up his post as the minister of defense, which has been dominated by the Northern Alliance. "Fahim is testing Karzai right now, he wants to see how much he can strong arm him," says Parekh. But Karzai has been rushing to tilt the scales back to his side in an effort to boost his reelection campaign. Just last month he fired Fahim's army chief of staff and appointed four new deputy ministers. The move was seen as an attempt to weaken Fahim's grip on the ministry of defense and send the message that the Karzai was no longer going to be pressured to include Fahim's people in his cabinet. National Army integration Although Mr. Fahim denies that he has a private militia he does admit that he has asked Karzai to include thousands of Tajik soldiers from Panjshir valley in the National Afghan Army and give them the same benefits. "These soldiers are standing up to terrorism like the coalition forces. I asked Karzai to take my soldiers and pay them and make them part of the Afghan National Army. Why train new ones when we have a lot of soldiers, generals and commanders," says Fahim. "They also need to be recognized, they need rights and paychecks and retirements. They should have these rights," he says. "Until the international troops are here, the former Afghan soldiers need to be taken care of as well." But Karzai's people say that adding the 50,000 Tajik soldiers to the 7,000 Afghan National Army will encourage loyalty to Fahim and defeat the purpose of a multi-ethnic force. The dispatch of a heavily Tajik force to battle the resurgent Taliban in the Pashtun regions of the south and east would likely aggravate the local population. ------------------------------------- Tuesday, 07 October, 2003 Ethnic politicking in Kabul Radio Netherlands Reports from Afghanistan suggest a row is brewing over who should run in next year's presidential election. Leaders of the government's dominant Northern Alliance faction are said to favour an ethnic Tajik candidate to stand against current president Hamid Karzai, who's from the largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, and Washington's clear favourite. In an interview with Radio Netherlands, Karl Inderfurth, former US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, says Mr Karzai risks losing the support of members of the Northern Alliance, who dominate the American-backed interim administration. "Clearly the Northern Alliance, which is largely Tajik-based, will want to have assurances that it will continue to play role in the government and perhaps may even decide to support another candidate than President Karzai. What will be important is for all these groups to work together to make sure there's a broad-based representative government in Kabul. Otherwise the entire process could break down." RN: "But would it be in the interest of the ethnic Tajiks to support and have one of their own as president and thus alienate the majority of Pashtun tribes in the south?" "That's a very good question, and I think that clearly the Pashtun group in the south will have to be taken into account. It is the largest of the ethnic groups in Afghanistan and unless Pashtuns feel a part of this process, clearly no government will be viable in Kabul. So, I think the Tajik faction will very much have to take that into account." "Of course, President Karzai is Pashtun and he has been able to work with all of the ethnic groups in Afghanistan to this point. So I would certainly assume that he would continue to be the leading candidate, but this will have to be sorted out as the next Loya Jirga, or Grand Council, of Afghanistan takes place at the end of this year and then into elections next year." RN: "There's information coming out that the Northern Alliance may be inclined to support Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was a president in the 1990s and who's also an ethic Tajik. Does he stand any real chance against President Karzai?" Afghanistan has welcomed NATO's decision to expand the international peacekeeping force beyond the capital, Kabul. President Hamid Karzai has long been asking for peacekeepers to be sent to the provinces, where there's continuing violence between rival warlords and Taliban fighters. "Well, of course that would be taking the leadership of Afghanistan back to its past, which did not work. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, Afghanistan fell into a long period of civil war and then of course the Taliban took over. President Rabbani was part of that earlier period. I think that many people would hope that Afghanistan could look to new leadership that could appeal across ethnic groups that could be broad-based and representative of the entire nation." "Having a Tajik-supported candidate to take on President Karzai could be divisive, but again Afghans will have to make these decisions themselves. The international community is committed to working with Afghanistan on reconstruction and security, but at the end of the day, the Afghans will have to decide how to put their government together and hopefully put a government together that all Afghans can support and that it will not be split into various ethnic groups." RN: "It's also clear that not many members of the current administration in Afghanistan enjoy the kind of rapport that President Karzai has with the West is this going to be a key feature of the presidential race next year?" "Well, I would hope that the Afghan people would recognize that it continues to have the support of the international community in trying their country after years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and that president Karzai is a respected figure around the world for the attempts he's making to see the country of Afghanistan come back into the international community."
Posted By: mariam   October 20th 2003, 2003 6:36 PM

Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.

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