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Warring Afghan tribal leaders agree to unite

GARDEZ, Afghanistan (CNN) -- In an effort to prevent another Afghan civil war, a Pashtun leader said he has persuaded warring tribesmen in eastern Afghanistan to unite and vow their allegiance to the new post-Taliban government.

Syed Hamid Gailani, who signed the Bonn agreement on behalf of the Pashtun delegation, has been traveling around the eastern Afghan province of Paktia for four days in an effort to unite Pashtuns who are split among three factions.

Greater Paktia, which was split into three provinces by the Taliban, is considered the heartland of the Pashtun people.

Gailani met Monday with hundreds of warring Pashtun tribesmen in Gardez, Paktia's provincial capital, bringing a message from his father, who is widely regarded as a spiritual leader for the Pashtuns.

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The tribesmen agreed to meet in Gardez to show their support for the Bonn agreement -- which set up the parameters for a central government in Afghanistan -- and a return to normalcy after the fall of the Taliban.

Tribal leaders from the neighboring provinces of Lowgar and Vardag also sent representatives and expressed their support of the peace effort.

Gailani's peace convoy started last week with a few vehicles crossing over from Pakistan.

There are fears that this area of eastern Afghanistan could be the spark that ignites the next civil war in the country.

U.S.-led bombing has targeted eastern Afghanistan, where the United States suspects al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have fled in a possible attempt to get to adjoining Pakistan.

Local tribesmen said foreign advisers -- possibly U.S. Special Forces -- are coordinating an attack in the Shahi Kot area where they suspect al Qaeda fighters are hiding.

The tribal leaders said this area is not a safe haven for al Qaeda, noting that local officials have set up committees specifically to apprehend foreign fighters in the Paktia province.




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