Northern Alliance forces continuing its offensive on Taliban controlled outlets in the north, pushed the Taliban to retreat from Kabul yesterday. This victory comes after the Alliance took control of Herat and Mazar-e Sharif over the weekend. Afghans immediately began to celebrate the end of Taliban rule. In Mazar-e Sharif, for the first time since 1999, Afghan women shed their burqas, took to the streets, and attended the central mosque to pray. According to the Washington Post, plans are now in the works to reopen schools that have been closed for the past 27 months. Abdurrashid Dostum, the Northern Alliance general leading the effort in Mazar-e Sharif, even broadcast via radio, “Women in Afghanistan have the same rights as women of other countries” and commented on his surprise at the sheer number women on the streets. “I can’t describe to you how people were delighted,” Dostum said. In Kabul, the celebrations were similar, as men abandoned their turbans and lined up to have their beards, once mandated by the Taliban, shaved.
Officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) commented that humanitarian aid efforts would be positively affected by this shift in power. Delivery of food aid to Afghanistan will be stepped up as aid can now pass through Uzbekistan into Mazar-e Sharif. According to the WFP, shipments of food could begin to pass through the border as early as today if the area can be deemed secure. WFP spokeswoman, Lindsey Davies cautioned that the situation in Mazar-e Sharif “remains volatile” as there have been reports of some lingering violence in the area. None of these reports, however, have been confirmed.
The takeover of Kabul and Herat increases concerns about the future leadership of Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance has not only seized the capital of Afghanistan, but by taking Herat, it has also positioned itself to advance into the south, including into the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. The Feminist Majority has been leading an effort aimed at the full participation of women in the peace process and the re-establishment of a broad-based, multi-ethnic constitutional democracy. To find out more about the Feminist Majority’s campaign and learn how to get involved, log on to www.HelpAfghanWomen.com.