Afghanistan is marking the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet-backed government and the creation of the Afghan Islamic state. Afghan officials celebrated the occasion with a parade, during which they pledged to work for peace and stability in the country.
The interim government of Afghanistan marked the victory over Communism with a national holiday and a three-hour military parade. Afghan soldiers, many of whom fought for the Communist government in the 1980s, marched past the newly painted grandstand in starched uniforms. Their platoons were interspersed with groups of mujahidin guerrillas who fought against the Communist government.
Beside the grounds, the gutted and abandoned houses of the Saraji neighborhood served as a reminder of the devastating war from which the country has yet to recover.
Defense Minister Mohammed Qasim Fahim congratulated the Afghan people on the end of the communist regime. "I am really happy that today we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the revolution," he declared, "and I want to promise to the people of Afghanistan that we will keep peace and security."
The defense minister said the most recent conflict in Afghanistan was not a civil war, but rather a war from outside carried out by non-Afghans, a reference to the al-Qaida group allied to the previous Taleban government. Marshal Fahim said the interim government has restored security and is now working to set up a national army.
Although the parade was well attended, the anniversary was a bitter occasion for many residents of Kabul, because it also marked the beginning of four years of factional fighting that destroyed a great deal of Kabul, including the neighborhood surrounding the parade grounds.
The anniversary also followed a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who pledged U.S. financial aid for the new Afghan army.
There were also reminders that although security has greatly improved in most of Afghanistan, it remains elusive in some areas. Secretary Rumsfeld's plane was diverted to the military air base at Bagram, 40 kilometers north of the capital, because Kabul airport was struck by missiles a few hours before his arrival. No casualties or damage were reported.
In addition, clashes were reported Saturday by fighters of two rival commanders in Gardez Province, south of Kabul. At least 15 people, most of them civilians, were killed and scores of others were wounded.