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Western Press Review: Taliban's Opponents Hitting Back In Afghanistan

Prague, 16 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Events in Afghanistan continue to attract Western press comment. The Taliban militia have occupied the capital Kabul and installed a harsh, strict Islamist rule only to confront stiffened resistance in recent days from other factions.

LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: Hope for peace and stability is gone

Alex Spillius writes from Kabul today in a news analysis: "As fighting continued on the plains north of Kabul yesterday, it became apparent that Afghanistan was fast returning to its traditional role as the victim of destructive interference from neighboring states. However abhorrent the social policy of the Taliban fighters, their arrival in Kabul, which brought 70 perecent of the country under their control, produced some hope of peace and stability. That has now gone."

Spillius says: "Iran, which borders Afghanistan to the west, is lending support to insurgencies against the Taliban. The Shi'ite regime apparently is motivated by hatred of the Sunni Taliban and of Pakistan, the friend of America."

AL-WATAN AL-'ARABI: The Taliban's triumph has hurt Iran economically

The Arab newspaper published in Paris recently published a commentary by Safa Ha'iri, an Iranian writer. He says that Iran received a major blow with "the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the Muslim seminarians who had toppled the administration of Borhanoddin Rabbani and Golboddin Hekmatyar in a quick operation that took the world by surprise and alarmed the mullahs of Iran."

Ha'iri writes: "Leaving Iran's official reactions aside, there is, by all accounts of observers in Iran, a game plan by Washington to choke and bring down the Iranian regime from within the country. The first undoubted dividend from the Taliban's success, informed Western intelligence sources emphasize, will be the closing down of 'terror bases' on Afghan territory," and says: "The Taliban have complied with Washington's demand that the country be purged of training camps, some of which had been run by the Iranians."

Ha'iri comments: "Beyond the blow Iran has received in Afghanistan in terms of the camps run by Islamic extremists, the Taliban's triumph has hurt Iran economically, with the borders between the two countries now sealed, thus advancing another item of the plan to isolate the Iranians economically."

NEW YORK TIMES: The Taliban's setbacks have stunned many Afghans

Writer John F. Burns says today in an analysis: "Less than three weeks after storming into the capital and proclaiming a strict Islamic government for Afghanistan, the forces of the Taliban religious movement have suffered a series of sharp military setbacks that have raised doubts about their ability to hang onto their gains. (The Taliban's) setbacks have stunned many Afghans, who had reacted to the Taliban seizure of Kabul on September 27 as though its forces were virtually unstoppable in their drive to gain control of all Afghanistan."

DIE PRESSE: The Taliban have never been challenged militarily

In an analysis in today's edition of the Austrian newspaper, Burkhard Bischof writes: "The intelligent editors of the (British weekly) Economist were right once again. After the Taliban took power in Kabul, (the Economist) pointed out that the religious fanatics, who in about two years got two-thirds of the civil-war-ravaged country under their control, have never really been challenged militarily. The regions and cities they conquered mostly dropped into their lap like ripe fruit." Bischof continues: "The Taliban have had to learn in bloody lessons that one can't move mountains only with faith and even less conquer valleys like the Pandschir Valley."

LE FIGARO: Alliances are never very solid in Afghanistan

Renaud Girard commented this week in the French newspaper: "The Taliban, instead of negotiating, launched an assault on the Panschir Valley, in order to pursue the defense minister of the old regime, (General Ahmad Shah) Massoud in his stronghold. (It was) a triple mistake, tactical, strategical and political." He wrote: "Politically the Taliban have made the mistake of refusing every accommodation with the former government. One always has to make concessions while one is still strong." Girard concluded: "In Afghanistan, alliances are never very solid, but they are indispensable for anyone who aspires to control the country. Shaped by an exclusively religious experience, the Taliban tries to ignore the laws of human politics."