The Taliban have repeatedly vowed to bring the whole of Afghanistan under their control and, although there has a widespread condemnation of their methods, particularly their treatment of women, they have gained some international credibility. However, the situation inside the country is less cut and dried than it appears to observers on the outside. Roddy Scott reports from Afghanistan on what appears to have become, with the help of foreign backing, a war without any foreseeable end.
With the casual dexterity born of practice 21 year old Abdul Majid unwrapped the linen bandage around his leg. His leg, though, no longer exists below the knee, and even six months later the wound has not healed properly, small droplets of yellow puss ooze from beneath the skin. Abdul Majid is one of thousands of Afghans who annually tread on anti-personnel mines. As a soldier, though, he will have the privilege of being sent to Iran for medical treatment. It is not a privilege that every victim will receive.
Ever since the withdrawal of soviet forces from Afghanistan the situation for those living in the country has gone from bad to worse as a result of what has become one of the world's least reported wars. For what is left of the Afghan civil population the situation cannot get very much worse, nor prospects for the future much darker.
Since September 1996 the relatively liberal and Farsi speaking capital of Kabul, along with two thirds of the country, has been in the hands of the rural Pasthun Taliban movement which has forced its own obscure interpretation of the Koran on the population at gunpoint. In the northern third of the country the anti-Taliban alliance, (otherwise known as the Northern Alliance), has recently spent as much time involved in interfactional infighting as it has fighting its Taliban enemy.
Foreign backers, meanwhile, continue to flood the country with weaponry and to cap it all a recent US State Department report stated that Afghanistan is rapidly becoming the world's leading producer of heroin, with the collusion of factional warlords.
Analysts say the recent clashes in the Northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest town under Alliance control, are further proof if any were needed -- that the Alliance will never prove a serious threat to Taliban rule. Fighting between forces loyal to former communist, Uzbek warlord General Rashid Dostum, and the Shia Hezb-i-Wah-dat faction left dozens dead and scores wounded in the key northern town.
Neither faction has commented on the fighting. However, analysts say the fighting dates back to last year when Mazar-i-Sharif (a predominately Uzbek town and key support base for General Dostum), was seized by the Taliban after a key Dostum ally, General Abdul Malik, deserted to the Taliban. Though General Malik subsequently switched sides back to the Alliance it was...