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Massoud Faults Karzai Stance on Airstrikes

Ahmad Zia Massoud

KABUL – The government’s decision on barring Afghan security personnel from requesting air support during security operations amounts to formal recognition of Taliban as a force in the countryside, an opposition leader alleged on Sunday. National Front of Afghanistan leader Ahmad Zia Massoud told a youth conference in Kabul that such moves would encourage the insurgents, who could soon capture certain districts and cities.

A day earlier, President Hamid Karzai, in an effort to minimise civilian fatalities, said Afghan forces would be banned from seeking NATO-led airstrikes during operations in rural areas. An air raid by ISAF  that killed 10 civilians in eastern Kunar province near the Pakistan border on Wednesday had been conducted at the request of local security personnel, the president told a conference at the National Military Academy in Kabul.

Five children, four women, a man and three insurgent commanders were killed in the raid on a militant hideout in the Shegal district. The airstrike was conducted during a joint operation by Afghan and NATO-led forces in Chogan village. “It’s a matter of shame for us that our spy agency (National Directorate of Security) seeks air support from foreigners against four individuals on our own soil,” he remarked, voicing his deep shock over the civilian fatalities.

Zia Massoud branded the Taliban as a group of conservative elements, who did not believe in democratic ideals or a role for civil society organisations. He said the militants were eyeing an emirate in the country and have its legality endorsed by “five religious scholars”. Like medieval church rule, where public opinion carried no weight, the Taliban wanted to impose their ultraorthodox beliefs on the people, added the former vice-president.

The rebel stance on girls’ education is starkly different from the popular Afghan view, according to the politician, who said beatings, killings and arson attacks were central to the Taliban’s philosophy. He believed the government-led reconciliation programme could not bring the insurgents to the negotiating table. The fighters would not join a government where they could not grab key slots, he explained.

“A Talib cannot become a public representative, because people are unwilling to vote for him. By the same token, he can’t be the president. All his knowledge is confined to the religion. He has no specialisation.”

Massoud claimed the Taliban, who earned millions of dollars from poppy cultivation, would lose their revenue as well as clout after joining a weak government.  “This is a sign of guerrilla warfare: As long as the fighters remain strong, they are not ready for peace.” The Front leader stressed the need for transparent elections, warning fraud could lead to a new round political instability that the country could ill-afford in the present situation. (PAN)

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