Afghan leader calls for arms, rankles officials

GRAHAM BOWLEY

One of the most powerful mujahideen commanders in Afghanistan, Ismail Khan, is calling on his followers to reorganize and defend the country against the Taliban as Western militaries withdraw, in a public demonstration of faltering confidence in the national government and the Western-built Afghan National Army.

Khan is one of the strongest of a group of warlords who defined the country's recent history in battling the Soviets, the Taliban and one another, and who then were brought into President Hamid Karzai's cabinet. Now, in announcing that he is remobilising his forces, Khan has rankled Afghan officials and stoked fears that other regional and factional leaders will follow suit and rearm, weakening support for the government and increasing the likelihood of civil war.

This month, Khan rallied thousands of his supporters in the desert outside Herat, the center of his power base, urging them to coordinate and reactivate their networks. And he has begun enlisting new recruits and organising district command structures.

"We are responsible for maintaining security in our country and not letting Afghanistan be destroyed again," Khan, the minister of energy and water, said at a news conference over the weekend at his office in Kabul.

The governor of Herat Province called Khan's reorganisation an illegal challenge to the national security forces. And Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, tersely criticised Khan.

Taliban rockets kills one, injure 3 in Kabul

Kabul: Rockets struck near Kabul's presidential palace and international airport on Tuesday on the 11th anniversary of the Taliban withdrawal from the Afghan capital, killing one and wounding three, police said. The hardline Islamists, ousted by US-led forces following the 9/11 attacks, claimed responsibility for the attack. "Mujahideen targeted the presidential palace and Kabul airport with rockets this morning," the Taliban said on their website. Agencies

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