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Sunday, 20 January, 2002, 16:44 GMT
Analysis: Instability plagues Afghanistan
General Rashid Dostum
Dostum is among the warlords who have re-installed themselves
Marcus George

The war is all but over against al-Qaeda fighters and their Taleban hosts in Afghanistan, but security in remote parts of the country is worse than it has been for several years.

Many of Afghanistan's former warlords have returned to their patches in the vacuum following the collapse of the Taleban regime.

The re-factionalisation of the country could have severe consequences for security in time to come.

Kandahar's new governor Gul Agha has been installed in the south, General Rashid Dostum controls the surrounds of Mazar-e-Sharif in the north. Haji Qader has returned to power in Jalalabad and Ismail Khan holds Herat.

Regional insecurity

These are the players the new interim government will have to deal with to begin a delicate unification process.

Hamid Karzai
Interim leader Hamid Karzai has some delicate negotiations ahead
On the edges of these regional power blocks little is known.

The road from Jalalabad to Kabul has been a "no-go" area since the murder of four foreign journalists in November. The region of Khost, bordering Pakistan's tribal zone, is described as insecure.

The insecurity could be caused by the remnants of al-Qaeda or Taleban fighters. Some of the culprits may also be bandits on the roads, taking advantage of the lack of order across Afghanistan to enrich themselves.

The US military is likely to be in the best place to understand the regional balance. But their operations are shrouded in mystery.

American activities to find Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taleban are continuing, but without result.

Helicopter blow

Meanwhile they are paying a price. Sunday's helicopter crash, which killed two US marines and injured five others, is the latest in a number of military casualties.

A soldier announced the crash outside Bagram airport
The US army says the helicopter crashed south of Kabul
The Super Stallion was travelling with one other when it crashed in a mountainous area, south of Kabul province.

US authorities said there are no indications that it was shot down.

As the second of two fatal crashes within a month, this is likely to be a big blow to the Americans.

Eleven days earlier seven US marines travelling in a refuelling tanker were killed in a crash near Shamsi airbase in southwestern Pakistan

The enemy threat is not only thought to be in mountainous parts of Afghanistan.

Seven Taleban fighters, who have allegedly confessed to being al-Qaeda members, were arrested in Kabul this week.

The incident is being taken very seriously by the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).

If elements of Osama bin Laden's militant organisation are still present in Afghanistan, an attack on foreign troops is likely to be their prize goal.

In reality there may be dozens areas where security does not exist.

If this is the case, the war against terrorism may be far from over. It may only have just begun.

The BBC's Kate Clark
"Kabul has changed, but in many ways it is the same"
See also:

18 Jan 02 | South Asia
Afghan warlord 'releases US citizen'
24 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghan warlord given top job
06 Dec 01 | South Asia
Key Afghan warlords reject Bonn deal
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