Taliban opponents offer to aid U.S. efforts
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Dr. Ravan Farhadi is Afghanistan's permanent representative to the United Nations. The government he represents is the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which is opposed to the Taliban administration. Farhadi's government is still waging a war against the Taliban for control of the country and controls the small northern pocket of Afghanistan.
Last week, the commander in chief of the Northern Alliance forces, Ahmad Shah Massood, was killed in a bomb explosion just two days before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Suhasini Haidar, a producer in CNN's bureau in New Delhi, India, happened to be in New York at the time of the attacks and conducted this interview with Farhadi on Sunday. Farhadi told Haidar he believes the attack on Massood was directly linked to the attacks and that his government offers strategic support to the United States.
FARHADI: The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan led by President Rabbani controls more than 20 percent of Afghanistan. We assure the Americans that 99 percent of all Afghans are against the Taliban and also against Osama bin Laden. They are also conscious of the fact that since Osama bin Laden came to Afghanistan in 1996 from Sudan, he has done a lot of harm to the Afghans.
We are offering America the full support of 15,000 troops under our command for use in any strikes against the Taliban or against Osama bin Laden. We have a small army, and unfortunately, except for a few helicopters, no air force. But we are willing to help America in any way possible. We can also mobilize 15,000 more troops if the means are given to us.
CNN: What news have you had from Afghanistan regarding your commander, Ahmad Shah Massood?
FARHADI: Well, we now know, unfortunately, that Commander Ahmad Shah Massood is dead. The terrorists knew his importance, and that is why the attack on him came two days before the attacks here. Two journalists -- of course now we know they were not journalists -- came to him with a camera that was booby-trapped. And they killed Ahmad Shah Massood. These two were Arabs with Belgian passports, and they had one-year multiple entry Pakistani visas issued by the High Commission of Pakistan in London.
CNN: Why do you say the attacks in Afghanistan and the United States are linked?
FARHADI: The terrorists knew they had to neutralize any forces that were fighting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. They need to do this so that the Americans cannot launch any attacks there with our support. President Rabbani has now asked President Bush to accept his condolences, but also to consult us if there are to be any strikes. Our forces will probably be run by Gen. Fahim, and Dr. Abdoulla will have some sort of political leadership position.
CNN: What kind of communication do you have with the area held by the Northern Alliance?
FARHADI: I stay in touch with my people with the help of satellite phones. We also received reports from the United Nations missions in Taliban-held Afghanistan.
CNN: And what have you heard of life over there?
FARHADI: The Taliban has implemented what they call their version of Islam. They have closed all girls' schools. They have forbidden all women's education. They have imposed total seclusion on Afghanistan's women. They are against all signs of civilization -- no TV, no music ... this is bringing Afghanistan to the Middle Ages.
CNN: And what will possible military strikes against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban regime mean for the ordinary Afghan?
FARHADI: The ordinary Afghan is ready to fight, to be armed against the Taliban. We in the Northern Alliance are doing what we can, but there are many within the Taliban-held area who would readily take up arms against Osama bin Laden if they are helped. If the Taliban is suppressed, Mr. bin Laden will have no safe haven, and he will be brought to justice.
CNN: In the wake of these attacks on America, Afghanistan now more than ever is seen as a nation of terrorists. How does that make you feel?
FARHADI: It's very interesting that none of these people [the hijackers] were Afghan. There are so many Afghans living outside Afghanistan -- none of them were part of this clique. Because this is not the Afghan's way of Islam, which is the way of justice and moderation.
CNN: Yet how do you explain that Osama bin Laden lives and receives support in Afghanistan.
FARHADI: Because Pakistan brought about the Taliban, which followed a political line in accordance with the extremist groups of Pakistan and the Pakistani military intelligence agency, ISI. In fact, the ISI created the Taliban. They have created the safe haven for Osama bin Laden. There is a triangle of Pakistan's military intelligence, Taliban and Osama bin Laden. In Afghanistan there are training centers for terrorists from all countries, and they work for Osama bin laden and protect him.
So first, Pakistan needs to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. Next, for the Arabs in Afghanistan to be arrested or expelled. In which case it would be no problem for us to move in and hand over Osama bin Laden to the Americans for justice. So Pakistan is the key to all this.
CNN: Conversely, is it true that Commander Massood's forces received support from India, which has fought several wars with its neighbor Pakistan?
FARHADI: Yes, we have received medical support in the form of a very modern hospital in Tajikistan from India. Our wounded men go there now, and it is very good. I would also like to reveal that Commander Massood actually made a secret visit to India just a few months ago. He was hosted by the Indian Ministry of Defence, and I hope we will get some more details of those meetings soon.
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