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Rodgers: Conference on future Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A two-day conference called Assembly for Peace and National Unity of Afghanistan is being held in Peshawar, Pakistan. Made up of roughly 800 delegates, the goal of the conference is to determine a leadership foundation for a post-Taliban Afghanistan.

But there's a notable absence of Taliban or Northern Alliance delegates at the event.

CNN's Walter Rodgers is in Islamabad, and he filed this report.

RODGERS: We are now getting a glimpse of the future in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders are meeting in Peshawar, Pakistan. Several hundred of them are gathered there for a two- or three-day meeting. Their goal is to discuss a broadly based government in Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban. However, so far in this first day, most of what we've been hearing is vociferous denunciations of the Taliban stewardship of their country for the past several years.

Notably absent from that meeting are moderate Taliban; the Northern Alliance is also not represented there.

However, a representative of the deposed King Zahir Shah is there and that perhaps may be a hint that the deposed king may have a moderating role in the formation of a subsequent post-Taliban government. Watching that meeting extraordinarily closely are the Pakistanis. Pakistan now has two million Afghan refugees in this country. They are very keen to see those refugees go home. As Riaz Mohammed Khan, the spokesman for the Pakistan foreign ministry, said, they're not going to take any more refugees if they can help it. Here's what he said:

KHAN: We have so far sealed the borders because, according to U.N. estimates, about 5 million to 7 million Afghans are displaced and they may be wanting to get out of Afghanistan. That is why we are also emphasizing that as much as possible, food and relief must be sent inside Afghanistan so that people do not become refugees; they get relief inside Afghanistan

RODGERS: By the looks of the village of Chowker Korez, some Afghans won't have much to return home to. A CNN team was allowed into this village north of Kandahar, which the Taliban says was the site of a fierce attack by U.S. helicopter gunships and AC-130 gunships. There was sustained small-arms fire there two nights ago. There's also said to be plenty of unexploded ordnance, including a large bomb in that village. Our CNN team also visited a hospital where the victims of that attack are said to be. They said they saw 20 survivors, many of them badly maimed, and they saw an untold number of bodies.

All of this presents a public relations problem for the United States. Our CNN team was not able to determine if there was a Taliban military presence in the village. Indeed, that is a concern these days of the Pentagon, because more and more it is believed that the Taliban fighting forces may be seeking refuge in civilian and residential neighborhoods.

CNN: Let's go back to the efforts to forge a post-Taliban government. There are no moderate Taliban present? No one from the Northern Alliance? What is the likelihood that these two groups will be included in those negotiations?

RODGERS: Remember, this is the first day of this first Afghan tribal council meeting. It will last several days. Another thing to look at is the fact that some of those present are indeed Afghan tribal leaders who have distinguished records with the previous fight with the Soviet Union when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan 20 years ago. So, we should not diminish the importance of those meeting there and remember that moderate Taliban elements could at some point later decide to join this. Again, politics in Afghanistan is extraordinarily complicated because you have so many tribes. There's an axiom of politics in Afghanistan -- if you think making war in Afghanistan is difficult, try making peace there.

I think that's we're getting a glimpse of that at this point.


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