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IUK: Fisk - No surprise at rumours of new atrocities by our 'foot-soldiers'
By Robert Fisk
14/11/2001 9:54 am Wed
13 November 2001
By Robert Fisk
The Northern Alliance's sudden victories in Afghanistan may be
good news for the West but the bad news is not far behind. The
Uzbek, Tadjik and Hazara gunmen who make up this rag-tag army
have a bloody reputation for torturing and executing prisoners
which - if resumed in the coming days - will plunge America and
Britain into a moral abyss.
Chilling stories of more than 100 pro-Taliban Pakistani fighters
shot dead after their surrender in Mazar-i-Sharif - and of Alliance
gunmen "roaming the streets'' of the abandoned city - will not
come as a surprise to those who are aware of the atrocities
committed by America's new allies during the 1992-96 fighting in
For the Americans - and for the minuscule British component of
the West's military forces inside Afghanistan - the behaviour of the
Northern Alliance presents a grave problem. As our "foot-soldiers"
are in Afghanistan, we cannot disclaim responsibility for human
rights abuses by the Alliance's gunmen; yet neither the Americans
nor the British appear to have tried to control the army they are
now helping. Indeed, it seems they may not even be able to
prevent the Alliance from entering Kabul.
The massacres committed by malicious fighting in the name of
outside powers have regularly brought shame upon their more
powerful allies. The Contras in Nicaragua and the Phalangist
militiamen in Lebanon contaminated their respective American and
Israeli masters - the latter in the notorious Palestinian camp
massacres of Sabra and Chatila in 1982. A glance at the
Alliance's track record of rape, pillage and street executions in
Kabul between 1992 and 1996 suggests that the so-called Allies
- America, Britain and just about anyone else who wants to join in
- have good reason to exert their influence over the newly
victorious militiamen from the north of Afghanistan.
In Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat there are comparatively few Pashtun
communities, which traditionally favour the Taliban.
A bit further south the Alliance will find itself among its ethnic
enemies. In 1997, Mazar's Hazara defenders killed more than 600
Taliban militiamen who had taken over the city and then
massacred dozens of Pakistani students who had accompanied the
Taliban into the region. In later bloodbaths, thousands of Taliban
prisoners were shot into mass graves, with dozens more Pakistanis.
A Northern Alliance turncoat, General Pahlawan Malik,
subsequently executed 2,000 Taliban prisoners of war who had
been tortured and starved before being put to death.
Many were drowned in wells. Others met a more carefully planned
death. One of General Malik's generals recalled: "At night when it
was quiet and dark we took about 150 Taliban prisoners,
blindfolded them, tied their hands behind their backs and drove
them in truck containers out to the desert. We lined them up 10 at a
time, in front of holes in the ground, and opened fire. It took about
On other occasions Taliban prisoners were locked inside
containers in mid-summer; 1,250 were deliberately asphyxiated in
this way, their corpses dragged from the containers, blackened by
Could it happen again? There is no reason to believe the Alliance has been taking lessons in human rights. It has been receiving ammunition from Russia and logistics from the United States. Photographs in yesterday's Pakistani papers showed Alliance gunmen leading a small party of Western troops through the terrain of northern Afghan-istan. But our soldiers are highly unlikely to have been distributing copies of the Geneva Convention to their new friends.