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Afghan Warlords Promise End of Feud - 2003-11-05

Two rival Afghan commanders are renewing promises to end their feuding after meeting with a delegation from the U.N. Security Council.

Generals Atta Mohammed and Abdul-Rashid Dostum met with the U.N. ambassadors in the provincial capital Mazar-e Sharif. Both commanders promised to respect Afghanistan's central government and cooperate to end fighting between their forces.

The militias of General Atta, an ethnic Tajik, and General Dostum, an Uzbek, have battled with each other during the past several weeks, leaving dozens dead.

Both commanders are under the authority of the Afghan armed forces, but have been accused of acting as semi-autonomous warlords, locked in a struggle for territory in northern Afghanistan.

The two generals said they assured the Security Council ambassadors at their meeting that they would halt the fighting. They added that they agree in principle with plans to integrate their units into the centrally controlled military.

General Atta and General Dostum have claimed in the past that much of the fighting between their militias was instigated by their subordinates.

Afghan Interior Minister Ali Jalali says that while the top commanders are responsible for some of the factional fighting, the general security situation does, in fact, depend heavily on lower-level leaders.

"One would think that the major strongmen in the provinces are the problem," he said. "In some cases they are not. The people who are under them are the problem, small warlords or "mini-warlords," or "micro-warlords," who are in charge of a village or a district or several districts."

During their meeting with the U.N. ambassadors, the commanders also discussed the problem of opium production and trafficking, which is believed to fund much of the militant activity across Afghanistan.

The five-day U.N. mission, which includes the U.N. ambassadors of Germany, the United States, Mexico, France, Britain, Bulgaria, and Spain, is meant to show international support for reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

The mission comes amid an upsurge in violence during the past few weeks, with an increase in attacks by insurgents across Afghanistan.

As the ambassadors met with the northern generals, a small explosion in the capital, Kabul, rocked the offices of the Commerce Ministry and a U.S. charity group. Police are investigating the blast to determine whether it was deliberate or an accident.