Saturday, September 27, 2008

What Western Diplomats Said about the Taliban after the Execution of Najibullah in 1996

On 27 September 1996, the Taliban executed Mohammad Najibullah, the last president of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Three days later, John F. Burns reported in the New York Times:
Now, with two-thirds of Afghanistan under their control, the Taliban are closer to ending the fighting than anybody has been since 1979. For Pakistan, peace in Afghanistan would bring a major dividend, including the possibility of re-opening trade routes to Central Asia and curbing the flood of opium, heroin and automatic weapons that have made large parts of Pakistan virtually ungovernable.

Other neighboring countries are deeply wary of the Taliban. For Iran, the Taliban's Islamic militancy is less important than the fact that the Taliban are mostly Sunni Muslims, long at odds with the Shiite Muslims who predominate in Iran.

Iran backed the Government ousted by the Taliban, which was headed by Persian-speaking leaders from Afghanistan's Tajik minority. Russia, wary of the spread of militant Islam to the newly independent Central Asian states, also backed the Government, as did India.

But Western diplomats in Islamabad say that there has been no sign that the Taliban leaders want to spread their beliefs beyond Afghhanistan's frontiers, or that they are inclined to back terrorism. ("New Afghan Rulers Shock Even Their Backers in Pakistan," 30 September 1996)

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