KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Afghans brought their radios out of hiding and played music in the streets, savoring the end of five years of harsh Taliban rule as the northern alliance marched triumphantly into Afghanistan”s capital yesterday. Diplomats sought U.N. help in fashioning a government for the shattered country.
American jets still prowled the skies in the south, seeking out convoys of Taliban fighters retreating toward Kandahar, the Islamic militants” last major stronghold. Strikes also targeted caves where members of terror suspect Osama bin Laden”s al-Qaida network were thought to be hiding.
Alliance troops celebrated the capture of the prize they had been fighting for since they were driven out by the Taliban in 1996. A small number of U.S. troops were on hand to advise them.
The dizzying cascade of events in Afghanistan turned the opposition into the country”s chief power overnight and brought to the forefront the issue of ensuring that it shares power. The United States and its allies want a government that includes groups the ethnic minorities that make up the alliance and the Pashtuns, the country”s largest ethnic group.
The alliance leaders said they had deployed 3,000 security troops across Kabul to bring order not to occupy it and insisted they were committed to a broad-based government.
The alliance foreign minister, Abdullah, invited all Afghan factions except the Taliban to come to Kabul to negotiate on the country”s future. The top U.N. envoy for Afghanistan outlined a plan for a two-year transitional government with a multinational security force.
In Washington, President Bush said the United States was working with the alliance to ensure they “respect the human rights of the people they are liberating” and recognize “that a future government must include a representative from all of Afghanistan.”
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said a “small number” of U.S. troops were in Kabul, advising the alliance. He told journalists at the Pentagon that the troops were not enough to police the city or prevent retaliation by the opposition.
Bush said there was “great progress” in the campaign launched Oct. 7 to uproot al-Qaida and punish the Taliban for harboring bin Laden, the chief suspect in the September terror attacks on the United States.
In the streets of Kabul, thousands of people celebrated, honking car horns and ringing bicycle bells. They flouted the strict version of Islamic law imposed by the Taliban that regulated almost every aspect of life, down to banning shaving and music.
“I used to play this at home, but very quietly and then I would check to see if anyone was outside,” Abdul Rehman said as he turned up the volume on his cassette tape recorder blaring out the music of his favorite Afghan folk singer.
Zul Gai, the owner of a barber shop lined up with men looking to lose their beards, smiled broadly. “This has been my best business day in many long years,” he said.
Most women, however, were too cautious to shed their all-encompassing burqas, unsure what the new rules would be.
Hundreds of northern alliance troops hunted down lingering Taliban and foreigners who came to Afghanistan to join al-Qaida. At least 11 Arabs and Pakistanis were slain and their bodies mutilated.
Alliance fighters roamed the streets in taxis, pickup trucks and cars, brandishing Kalashnikov rifles and grenade launchers. Troops set up roadblocks in neighborhoods where Arabs and Pakistanis lived.
Five Pakistanis, who were firing randomly from trees in a public park, were killed by alliance soldiers. A Red Cross official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bodies were in pieces when volunteers removed them for burial.
Four Arabs died when their pickup truck was blasted by a rocket. Their charred bodies were dragged from their vehicle by residents who kicked and poked at them. Two other Arabs were killed outside a military base near the U.N. guest house.
There were signs of a breakdown of Taliban control in Kandahar the birthplace of the hardline Islamic movement.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an armed force of Pashtuns were moving against the Taliban near Kandahar. The official would not elaborate.
At least 200 Pashtun fighters mutinied in Kandahar, and fighting broke out by the city”s airport, said a Taliban official, Mullah Najibullah, at the Pakistani border at Chaman.
Abdullah said the situation in Kandahar was “chaotic.” He said “Taliban authorities are not seen. … There is no responsible authority to respond to the needs of the people.”
The Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, made a radio address denouncing deserters and urging his followers to fight, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported.
“This is my order: that you should obey your commander,” Omar said, according to the agency. Deserters “would be like a hen and die in some ditch.” The agency quoted him as saying he was in Kandahar, though that could not be independently verified.
The U.S. official said the Taliban were in disarray in several areas in the south. Field commanders were fleeing and some were switching sides, the official said. There were signs the Taliban were abandoning cities, possibly to fight a guerrilla war from the mountains.
Before northern alliance security forces entered Kabul at midday, armed gangs ransacked the offices of international humanitarian organizations and the Pakistan embassy in reprisal for that government”s longtime support of the Taliban.
By the afternoon, alliance military police arrived in the city and began to restore order. Guards were stationed in front of government and international aid offices.