Accessibility links

Afghan Report: February 27, 2003

27 February 2003, Volume 2, Number 8
By Amin Tarzi

The death of Afghan Mines and Industry Minister Joma Mohammad Mohammadi in a plane crash in Pakistan on 24 February (for more, see News section) will not stop the proposed multibillion-dollar pipeline that is planned for the transport of natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, an Afghan government official said the day after the minister's death.

Mohammadi was in Pakistan for meetings regarding the proposed pipeline project, which is known both as the trans-Afghan pipeline project and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Natural-Gas Pipeline Project (TAP).

The TAP project is a $3.45 billion undertaking designed to transport natural gas from the Dawlatabad field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then eventually, if the political climate between Islamabad and New Delhi permits it, to India. The initial phase of the project, excluding the pipeline's possible extension to India, would involve the construction of a pipeline about 1,700 kilometers in length that can transport up to 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually.

In May of last year, the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan announced that a partnership to implement the project had been formed and that a steering committee had also been created to coordinate the TAP project. That committee met last June and September and again this week.

The three countries requested that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) develop a feasibility study for the project, which was completed in December (see The study highlights five issues that are deemed crucial for the implementation of the TAP project: (1) confirming that a market for gas exists in both Pakistan and India, as well as confirming that potential buyers exist; (2) asserting that the Dawlatabad fields can yield gas for 25-30 years at the rate envisaged by the project; (3) addressing concerns that India and Pakistan may have regarding the possible disruption of gas transit due to a deterioration of security or the political climate between the two; (4) determining that it is technically possible to lay the pipeline; and (5) finally, generating interest in international oil and gas companies to take the lead in ensuring that the pipeline is built in a cost-efficient and timely manner.

While the ADB study points out that in the initial years of the TAP pipeline Afghanistan would use a portion of the gas domestically and that Pakistan could use the surplus capacity for export, people familiar with the ADB's work on the TAP project have said that unless India agrees to join in, the project will not be economically viable. Pakistan alone is not a sufficiently large market for Turkmen natural gas, and Afghanistan may develop its own gas fields for domestic use. Moreover, Afghanistan at present is not a significant consumer of natural gas.

With the aim of making the project viable, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan officially invited India to join the project at their meeting this week in Islamabad. If New Delhi agrees to join, then it would be invited to attend the next meeting of the three stakeholder countries scheduled for April in Manila, Philippines, where the ADB has its headquarters.

Security Concerns From Afghanistan

Whether or not India accepts the offer to join the TAP project, thereby bringing it closer to becoming a reality -- a prospect that seems unlikely in the current political climate between New Delhi and Islamabad and given the fact that India may buy liquefied natural gas from Iran, which will be transported by ship, or opt for Iranian gas through an undersea pipeline -- what the ADB feasibility report shies away from is the security and political problem facing the project in Afghanistan. There are two partly related issues that could make the TAP pipeline project more of a pipe dream and could also help plunge Afghanistan into chaos. The first concern is that of the ability of the central government in Kabul to extend its rule over the entire country and negotiate as the government of Afghanistan with potential interlocutors involved with the TAP project. The Afghan Transitional Administration does not currently have effective authority over large portions of Afghanistan, and without such a central government with the ability to negotiate as the sole entity with full sovereignty over its entire territory, it would be very difficult to find financial institutions or oil and gas companies to invest in a project that passes through several semiautonomous regions with no international recognition.

The current political arrangement in Kabul is due to give way to an elected government that will have a new constitution and will be supported by a nascent national military force by June 2004. It is not clear what form of political arrangement the new Afghan constitution, currently in the drafting phase, will envisage for the country. Some of the regional leaders, or warlords, whose territories the proposed pipeline would cross are in favor of a loose "federal" system that would allow them to remain virtually independent from Kabul. If the new Afghan constitution proposes a centralized state, the test will be the dismantling of the regional armies and finding a solution to ending the prevailing power of the warlords themselves. Otherwise, the warlords will see the pipeline as a way to enrich and thus entrench their power. If such efforts on the part of the warlords fail, they may seek to undermine the entire project by disrupting the flow of gas, which is the second point of concern.

Security of the pipeline on Afghan territory has to be guaranteed if the TAP project is going to attract financial backers. Even if the central government in Kabul manages to rid the country of warlordism and pulls the fragments of the country together into a viable state, it needs to have the ability to guard against potential attacks by disenchanted local leaders or remnants of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, which knows pipeline games rather well.

Learning From The Mistakes Of Past Pipeline Projects

The TAP project does not represent the first attempt to lay a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan. The first entity to do so was the Argentine oil company Bridas, which won exploration rights to Turkmen gas fields in 1992 and thought of transporting the gas to Pakistan and eventually to India. The plan was stalled, however, since Afghanistan was embroiled in a bloody civil war and the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani in Kabul was at odds with Islamabad.

In 1994, the Taliban, almost out of nowhere, appeared on the Afghan political scene by capturing Kandahar. They went on to control most of western Afghanistan -- the planned route for the Bridas pipeline -- by 1995. This prompted Islamabad and Ashgabat to agree with Bridas to study the possibility of laying their proposed pipeline without negotiations with, or the consent of, the authorities in Kabul. Bridas presumably was aware that Islamabad had very close relations with the Taliban and that it could negotiate on their behalf. As for the government in Kabul, the calculations must have been that the Taliban would prevail throughout the country, or at least hold on to the western sections of Afghanistan, thus guaranteeing the pipeline plan.

Later that year, a consortium led by the U.S. oil company Unocal and the Saudi Arabian company Delta Oil joined the pipeline scene, winning over the favors of Turkmenistan. Bridas, feeling betrayed, went on to negotiate and sign a deal directly with Rabbani, who controlled none of the territory over which the pipeline was to be laid. While engaged in a legal dispute in the United States, the two competing consortiums continued to court various Afghan warlords or would-be warlords, who often signed deals with both companies and benefited from "signing bonuses."

This fiasco, which prolonged the civil war and aided the fragmentation of Afghanistan, also helped the Taliban rise to power, as they were regarded -- both inside and outside the country -- as providers of security. Regardless of exactly who the Taliban were, what policies they promoted at home, or who their supporters were, all that seemed to matter was the security of the pipeline. This situation, however, proved to be illusory, and all involved lost out.

Unocal and its partners eventually withdrew from the pipeline project because of strong pressure from human rights groups, especially women's rights groups, in the United States. Appalled by the Taliban's policies on women and the increasing terrorist activities of Al-Qaeda, whose leader Osama bin Laden was a "special guest" of the Taliban, these groups threatened to organize a boycott of Unocal and brought bad press to the company.

Current Opportunities Should Not Be Missed

The merits of the new TAP project include its transparency and the fact that it deals only with the governments of the three principal countries. The involvement of the ADB is also a welcome step. While much has changed in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the state of affairs in that country remains fragile. Lessons from the 1990s ought to serve as a reminder to all involved that a legitimate and internationally recognized state should precede any plans to construct pipelines.

If the TAP project proceeds as planned, and if the Afghan state solidifies itself, the opportunities are enormous, not only for Afghanistan itself, but also for Central and South Asia, which can be brought together through economic connectivity and interdependence.

Afghan Mines and Industry Minister Joma Mohammad Mohammadi arrived in Pakistan on 19 February to participate in meetings regarding the proposed trans-Afghan gas pipeline for transporting Turkmen gas to Pakistan via Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 December 2002), Pakistan's PTV reported. Mohammadi said the pipeline project is going to be very important for Afghanistan in terms of creating jobs and generating income for its citizens, PTV reported. According to the report, the $3.45 billion pipeline project, which was put on hold because of war in Afghanistan, has become a reality due to the new political situation in that country. Two proposed routes are under discussion, one from western Afghanistan transiting Kandahar Province into Pakistan's Baluchistan Province and a second through the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif and moving south to Jalalabad before entering the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Lahore, the report added. High security risks and India's hesitation to rely on gas transported via Pakistan casts doubt on the project's success. Pakistan alone does not represent a sufficient market for Turkmen gas. (Amin Tarzi)

Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan agreed in a meeting held in Islamabad on 22 February to invite India to join the proposed trans-Afghan gas-pipeline project in order to make the project "economically viable," "The News International" reported on 23 February. The announcement was made after talks held by Mines and Industry Minister Mohammadi and his Pakistani and Turkmen counterparts, according to the report. If "the Indian government agrees to the proposal," the report commented, India could be invited to formally attend the project's next steering-committee meeting scheduled for April on the sidelines of an Asian Development Bank forum in Manila. Without India's participation in the project, market analysts doubt the possibility of the project's success. (Amin Tarzi)

Mines and Industry Minister Mohammadi was among eight passengers who died on 24 February when the light aircraft they were traveling in crashed into the Arabian Sea shortly after taking off from the Pakistani port city of Karachi, Afghan Islamic Press reported. Four Afghan officials, a senior businessman from the Metallurgical Company of China, and two Pakistani crewmembers were also killed in the crash, the BBC reported on 24 February. (Amin Tarzi)

The Transitional Administration issued a statement on 24 February calling the death of Mohammadi an "irreparable loss," Afghanistan Television reported the same day. An emergency session of the Afghan cabinet formed a funeral commission, as well as a commission under the auspices of the Afghan Foreign Ministry to investigate the causes of the air crash in cooperation with the Pakistani government, the report added. Also killed in the crash were Ahmad Rateb Olumi, an adviser to Mohammadi; Mohammad Amin Sadeq, head of the Mines and Industry Ministry's planning department; and Farhad Ahad, a representative of the Foreign Ministry, Afghanistan Television reported. Mohammadi, who worked for the World Bank prior to returning to Afghanistan to join the Transitional Administration, was the only member of the current Afghan cabinet who served in pre-communist (1978) Afghan governments. He served as minister of water and power in the government of President Mohammad Daud in 1977-78 and was imprisoned by the communists after they took power in a coup in 1978. Mohammadi was from Paktia Province and was educated in the United States. (Amin Tarzi)

Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim told a news conference in Kabul on 20 February that following President Hamid Karzai's approval a number of changes have been made at the Defense Ministry to address charges "that many posts in the Defense Ministry belonged to the Tajik ethnic group," Radio Afghanistan reported the same day. Fahim said the new appointees, who are Uzbeks, Pashtuns, and Hazaras, would take over posts that "mostly belonged to the Tajik ethnic group" and that were held by people "mainly from Panjsher District," Radio Afghanistan reported. Fahim expressed the hope that other governmental institutions will also make efforts to better reflect the ethnic makeup of the country in order to establish a sound and acceptable administration in which Afghans can have confidence, the report added. Gul Zarak Zadran, a Pashtun, will assume the post of deputy defense minister, and 11 new department heads have been appointed. A Human Rights Watch report issued on 5 December 2002 (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 December 2002) claimed that Fahim "continues to command an army whose primary allegiance is to him." This could be a major victory for Karzai's administration if Fahim is sincere about sharing power in the Defense Ministry. (Amin Tarzi)

Six people were killed and an unknown number were injured on 22-23 February when commanders loyal to former Afghan President Rabbani's Jamiat-e Islami party clashed in Faryab Province's Pashtunkot District with commanders loyal to Deputy Defense Minister General Abdul Rashid Dostum's Junbish-e Melli party, international news media reported. Iranian radio reported that the fighting began after an Interior Ministry delegation arrived to replace Faryab Province Governor Mohammad Saleh Zari. Hindukosh news agency cited General Abdul Sabur, an official from the Mazar-e Sharif military corps, which is allied with Jamiat-e Islami, as saying forces loyal to General Dostum initiated the battle when they attacked troops led by Abdul Rasul, a commander loyal to Jamiat-e Islami. Sabur said the fighting ended on 23 February. Zari is believed to be loyal to Dostum. In late January, five people were reported killed and an undisclosed number injured in fighting that took place between rival commanders in Faryab Province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Seven "local inhabitants" have been killed and an undisclosed number injured in renewed fighting in Faryab Province, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported on 25 February. The latest fighting reportedly took place in the province's Qand-e Sang area. (Amin Tarzi)

The Zadran tribe has blocked the highway between Gardayz and Khost since the weekend of 22-23 February, Pakistan's Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 25 February. The Zadran are reportedly demanding the release of a number of their vehicles that they claim have been seized by the government authorities in Khost, AIP reported. The government authorities and Pacha Khan Zadran, a major Zadran tribal leader, have been in a long-running dispute that culminated in his dismissal as the governor of Paktia Province (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 November and 19 December 2002). (Amin Tarzi)

"Erada" commented on 24 February that robberies and the lack of security on Afghan highways are "products of warlordism" and claimed that "illegal road tolls" have been set up along the Kabul-Jalalabad highway. The newspaper cited a recent incident in which a group of Afghan pilgrims were robbed of their belongings while traveling on the Kabul-Jalalabad highway on their way home from the hajj. During the civil war, warlords controlled sections of Afghanistan's roads and collected tolls from, and often robbed, travelers. One of the Taliban's few successes was eliminating most of these tolls and opening the highways, but the group then ushered in its own regime of terror. (Amin Tarzi)

A U.S. military vehicle reportedly blew up on 19 February when it hit a mine in the Zormat region of Paktia Province, AIP reported the same day. Eyewitnesses said U.S. and Afghan troops arrived after the accident and that a helicopter removed three injured people from the scene, according to the report. Afghanistan remains one for the most heavily mined countries in the world. Afghans are killed and maimed daily by mines mostly laid by Soviet troops in the 1980s and also by various mujahedin factions later during the Afghan civil war. (Amin Tarzi)

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said on 20 February that a U.S. soldier lost his foot in the landmine blast, American Forces Press Service (AFPS) reported on 20 February. Another U.S. soldier sustained minor injuries in the blast and was released after treatment, AFPS reported. (Amin Tarzi)

A U.S. military spokesman said unknown groups carried out two separate attacks on U.S. troops in Oruzgan and Nangarhar provinces on 23 February, Hindukosh news agency reported the next day. No U.S. troops were injured, according to the report, but an Afghan soldier working with the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition was killed and another injured in Oruzgan Province. (Amin Tarzi)

Three explosions rocked the northern Afghan city of Konduz on 18 February, causing damage but no casualties, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. The first explosion took place near the building that houses the offices of the International Organization of Migration, the second near the headquarters of U.S. forces in Konduz Province, and the third in the vicinity of the headquarters of Afghan Army Corps No. 6, according to the report. Abdul Majid, the head of security in Balkh Province, who previously headed security in Konduz Province, told Radio Afghanistan that the explosions were the first in Konduz since the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan was established in December 2001. Abdul Majid added that Konduz Province remains a Taliban stronghold and that members "are trying to disturb security," the radio reported. (Amin Tarzi)

NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson suggested in a meeting in Washington with U.S. President George W. Bush on 19 February that NATO should take a more active role in Afghanistan, an idea an unidentified U.S. diplomat said was received with a "positive reaction," "The New York Times" reported on 21 February. The diplomat speculated that NATO could either take formal command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), provide support to countries providing troops to the force, or a combination of the two approaches could be implemented, "The New York Times" added. During a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on 20 February, the NATO secretary-general said that, "Afghanistan has been for too long an exporter of trouble, instability, drugs, and trafficking, and if we can help to reduce that threat to the whole of Europe, then NATO will play its part and do it strongly, too," the New York daily reported. Robertson said on 8 February that he sees "no credible alternative" to NATO in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 13 February 2003). The issue of NATO's involvement in Afghanistan has been the topic of intense discussion since early 2002, and NATO logistical support for ISAF was formally approved during the Atlantic alliance's Prague summit in November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 November 2002). Some alliance members, especially France, remain opposed to NATO involvement in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 December 2002). (Amin Tarzi)

Both Germany and the Netherlands said on 21 February that they might pull their troops out of ISAF in Afghanistan if tensions in Iraq spark anti-Western sentiment, RFE/RL reported the same day. German Defense Minister Peter Struck said his country might withdraw its forces if a war in Iraq escalates tensions in Kabul, the report added. Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Bart Jochems said his country also has plans to withdraw its troops if anti-Western sentiment threatens troops in Kabul, where ISAF operates. Germany and the Netherlands took over command of ISAF from Turkey on 10 February (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 February 2003). On 9 February, Struck said German troops serving with ISAF would remain in Afghanistan even in the event of a war in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 13 February 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

ISAF, after reaching an agreement with the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Endowments, has asked clerics in Kabul mosques to help educate citizens about ISAF's mandate and to help the international force in its peacekeeping mission, Iranian state radio's Mashhad-based Dari service reported on 25 February. A delegation of 50 Islamic clerics and tutors led by Mowlawi Qari Samad have visited ISAF's headquarters to lay the groundwork for their joint efforts. The report noted that this initiative comes at a time when there is "growing cynicism about the presence of foreign forces" in Afghanistan. Iranian state radio's Zadedan-based Pashto service reported that two Muslim scholars, Mulla Wali Marjan and Mulla Shernawazi, were detained in Khost Province by U.S. forces on 24 February and taken to an "unknown destination." Iranian state radio appears to be contrasting ISAF's behavior with that of U.S. forces. (Amin Tarzi)

About 27 kilograms of raw hashish has been seized by security forces in Herat Province, Herat Television reported on 19 February. According to the report, the hashish was being smuggled to Iran. In 2002, the production of illegal drugs increased dramatically in Afghanistan (for an analysis of the narcotics trade in Afghanistan see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Ten tons of opium-poppy seeds and 180 kilograms of raw opium have been burned by the security forces of northern Balkh Province, Balkh Radio reported on 20 February. The illegal substances were seized from smugglers, according to the report. (Amin Tarzi)

The authorities of Kandahar Province announced on 25 February that any person using foreign currency will be "severely penalized," Radio Afghanistan reported from Kabul the same day. According to the report, the announcement will become a "legal decree" beginning on 21 March, the Afghan new year. The announcement warns that if anyone is caught using foreign currency, his or her money will be "seized and the person will be imprisoned," Radio Afghanistan added. The radio station said the new measure in Kandahar is targeted against the use of Pakistani rupees. Kandahar Governor Gul Agha Sherzai on 7 January declared it illegal to use foreign currency and said violators will be questioned by security forces (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 9 January 2003). The Radio Afghanistan report did not mention the previous ban. It is not clear if the punishments for using foreign currency will take effect immediately or after 21 March. Pakistani rupees were legal tender in most of Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule, especially in Kandahar. (Amin Tarzi)

Nematullah Shahrani, one of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's deputies and the head of the nine-member Constitutional Drafting Commission (CDC), said on 23 February that "the basis of the [new] constitution is Islam, and in Islam we have social justice, service for the people, human rights, [and] education for all," stressing that there will be no "discrimination against anyone" and that everyone, including women, will have equal rights under the new constitution, Reuters reported. Shahrani said the new constitution will be for all Afghans and will not favor "one family, one party, [or] one group," a characteristic of previous Afghan constitutions that the commission believes led to their failure, Reuters reported. The first draft of the new constitution is to be ready in March, and the final draft will be presented to a Constitutional Loya Jirga in October for approval (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," January 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Shahrani also said on 23 February that the CDC is drafting "the constitution for the Afghan people [and that] they will play a full role in its framing," Reuters reported. Some Afghans are concerned that under conditions in which the central government does not control major sections of the country, a democratic debate on the new constitution will not be possible. Western diplomats in Kabul have expressed concern that the new Afghan constitution will be hijacked by radical Islamists who do not advocate granting more human rights, especially in regard to women and religious minorities (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 13 and 20 February 2003). Since 1924, Afghanistan has adopted six constitutions and drafted two proposed documents that were not formally promulgated. (Amin Tarzi)

Defense Minister Fahim on 24 February told a gathering of journalists at the Afghan presidential palace that the Afghan administration believes in freedom of the press as a "pressing need of society" as long as that freedom does not harm the country's national unity and does not "provoke national discord," Afghanistan Television reported. Addressing the recent dispute among Afghan publications regarding an editorial in "Payam-e Mujahed" that criticized Afghans who have returned from the West, he said Afghans who went to the West as refugees are encouraged to come back. Fahim, who is a member of Jamiat-e Islami, said the controversial editorial does not represent his personal view or that of Jamiat-e Islami, the report added. "Payam-e Mujahed" supports the more conservative wing of the Jamiat-e Islami, which is led by former Afghan President Rabbani. (Amin Tarzi)

Local authorities in northern Afghanistan's Konduz Province have issued a decree banning the distribution and showing of videotapes, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 19 February. The decree warned video-center owners against resuming their operations, according to the report. Such centers often show Western and Indian movies, many of which contain violence and sexually explicit scenes. On 21 January, Supreme Court Chief Justice Mulla Fazl Hadi Shinwari ordered a ban on cable-television broadcasts in Afghanistan, saying they are "against Islamic laws and values" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 January 2003). It is not clear if the decree by Konduz Province authorities is based on the 21 January Supreme Court ruling or was decided locally. (Amin Tarzi)

Participants in a conference on Afghan women's issues that took place in Kabul this week have issued a communique demanding the "termination of all forms of discrimination" and "threats and violence against women," the Kabul paper "Sirat" reported on 22 February. They also called for the new Afghan constitution to include rights for women and urged the "implementation and establishment" of projects throughout Afghanistan to help eradicate illiteracy among Afghan women. (Amin Tarzi)

Azizullah Ariafar, the head of state-owned Afghanistan Radio and Television, said in an interview with the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 19 February that thanks to a new transmitter donated by Iran, Afghanistan Television is currently able to broadcast five to six hours per day as compared to one hour previously, but he added that the broadcasting infrastructure in Afghanistan was badly damaged during the war years and is in dire need of further assistance. Ariafar added that international donors have not fulfilled their pledges to assist Afghanistan's broadcast sector, according to the report. Afghanistan Television went back on air with Iranian assistance in November 2001. (Amin Tarzi)

Afghanistan Radio and Television head Ariafar said on 19 February that women are playing an active role in the state-owned organization, "including...acting and presenting and producing programs," the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported. The only restriction, according to Ariafar, is that songs by female Afghan singers cannot be broadcast. With the slow arrival of aid from Western donors, Iran has stepped up its efforts to assist Afghanistan's broadcast sector, not only in Kabul but in Herat and other provinces. Female singers are also banned from Iranian radio and television programs. (Amin Tarzi)

At least 70 people suspected of war crimes and "serious human rights violations" have been given refuge in Sweden, Radio Sweden reported on 24 February, citing "Goeteborgs-Posten." Some of these individuals are Afghans who "worked for the Afghan security organization Khad, which was responsible for serious human rights violations under a number of regimes in Kabul, including the Soviet occupation [1979-89]," according to the report. Afghanistan acceded to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in January, opening the way for the extradition and trial of war criminals (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January 2003). Under ICC provisions, the treaty will go into effect in Afghanistan on 1 May, giving the court the authority to investigate and prosecute serious war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity committed on Afghan soil. John Sifton, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, said on 10 February that for "over two decades, perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan have enjoyed total impunity. On May 1, that impunity will formally end." Some members of the Afghan secret police are believed to have found refuge in Sweden, the Netherlands, and other European countries. (Amin Tarzi)

21 February 1989 -- Pakistan-based mujahedin leaders elect Abd al-Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf as acting prime minister and Sebghatullah Mujaddedi as acting president of the Afghan government in exile. Leader of the National Islamic Front, Sayyed Ahmad Gailani, challenged the legitimacy of the government.

20 February 1995 -- Jamiat-e Islami forces wage fierce battles in Kabul with the Wahat-e Islami party as the United Nations envoy for Afghanistan, Mahmud Mestiri, admits failure of his plan to transfer power in Kabul.

February 1997 -- A Taliban delegation in Washington seeks U.S. recognition and meets with Unocal officials in Texas. A second Taliban delegation visits Argentina as guests of Bridas. Upon returning to Afghanistan, Taliban representatives meet with Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faysal in Jeddah.

Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan" by Ludwig W. Adamec (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997); "Taliban" by Ahmed Rashid (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000)