'There is no lull'

Afghanistan | In the multi-front global war on terrorism, even among those operations that seemed settled, much work remains | by Mindy Belz

Issue: "The GOP's Latino outreach," Sept. 28, 2002

With al-Qaeda operatives handcuffed last week from upstate New York to Pakistan, the first phase of the war on terror might appear to be winding down. But hold the mops when it comes to Afghanistan.

Even as the country prepares its comeback in the international soccer arena, radical Islamic fighters are making life difficult again. Rumblings of new battles had U.S. Special Forces back in horse saddles in eastern Afghanistan last week.

They are on the lookout for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, once an important U.S. ally. The Pashtun warlord issued a 9/11 anniversary call to "freedom-loving Afghans to take part in jihad in their country against aggressor forces," referring to the United States. He called the United States the "mother of terrorism" and denounced "gutless Afghans who are fighting their fellow countrymen in support of aliens."

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A longtime commander among the majority Pashtun population, Mr. Hekmatyar is probably the biggest threat to stability in Afghanistan and to its embattled president, Hamid Karzai. Many Pashtuns oppose Mr. Karzai for his alliance with the Uzbek-dominated Northern Alliance.

After the war in Afghanistan began, Mr. Hekmatyar was exiled in Iran. Earlier this month rumors circulated that he was back inside Afghanistan. Karzai supporters suspect he may have been behind the Sept. 5 assassination attempt on the president and a bomb attack in Kabul that killed 30. The president survived only because U.S. forces guarding him stepped in-a clear illustration that the job for U.S. soldiers isn't over yet. "There is no pause. There is no lull. There is no quagmire," said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.


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