Probably the US has already made up its mind what to do, and any recommendations by me will be too late. However, military action by itself in the present circumstances is only making things more difficult - especially if this war goes on a long time and many civilians are killed. The best thing would be for the US to work for a united political solution involving all the Afghan groups. Otherwise there will be an encouragement of deep divisions between different groups, backed by different countries and badly affecting the whole region.
I am not sure that the air campaign will work. Before the attacks started, the Taliban's people were very nervous, and their support in the population was very low. Everyone was afraid. But once the bombing started, people began to say: "Well, it's not so bad. We have known worse. We can stand it." This is something I have often seen in battle. The soldier runs away, terrified. Then he realizes he is not in immediate danger. He stops and faces the enemy, and his courage comes back.
So in these last weeks I have seen more support for the Taliban than before. We have been trying to create a revolt within the Taliban, but the US hasn't given us the chance. They seem to have been determined to attack, even if someone came up with the best proposal in the world to avoid this. This has been a big setback for me.
The US should keep up the pressure, above all with money, but should not bomb. The top leadership of the Taliban is impossible to change by bombing or talking. Instead I have been talking with second-level Taliban commanders, ex-mojahedin and tribal elders. What I am working for is that these should make a statement saying that the Taliban must go, and that anyone who rejects this can be fought.
However, what everyone is telling me is that for this to happen, there must be some alternative structure for Taliban people to come over to. Most won't go over to the Northern Alliance, and the Alliance must not be allowed to take power, because they would take revenge on anyone who had ever fought them and drive people back to the Taliban. And the Northern Alliance must not be allowed to launch attacks, at least against Kabul and to the east and south [ie into core Pashtun territories].
If this is followed, then, many Taliban people have told me, they will be prepared to abandon the Taliban.
I have said all this to US officials, and so have others. But it's impossible to find anyone beneath the level of the president who is willing to take responsibility for a decision. If the US keeps bombing and helps the Northern Alliance, then our work will be much more difficult. The problem is that the Americans cannot control Alliance commanders on the ground if they decide to attack Kabul or massacre people. How can they control them? By threatening to bomb them too?
The Taliban is mostly from Pashtun areas and Pashtuns are the key to getting rid of them. Whenever the Taliban is weak, it turns to Pashtun nationalism, and it does have a certain effect. The anti-Taliban campaign needs two stages: a military strategy to split and remove the Taliban, which should be carried out by Afghans themselves, not the US; and a Loya Jirga [grand national assembly] to create a future government, including representatives of all ethnic groups and tribes.
We should be concentrating on avoiding bloodshed as far as possible. The Taliban are like a crystal ball. They are very hard, but brittle. If they are hit in the right way, they will shatter into a million pieces. But bombing the whole of Afghanistan is not the right way. Instead, we should undermine the central leadership, which is a very small and closed group and the only thing which holds them all together. If they are destroyed, every Taliban fighter will pick up his gun and blanket and disappear back home, and that will be the end of the Taliban.
But the US is trying to show its muscle, score a victory and scare everyone in the world. They don't care about the suffering of the Afghans or how many people we will lose. And we don't like that. Because Afghans are now being made to suffer for these Arab fanatics, but we all know who brought these Arabs to Afghanistan in the 1980s, armed them and gave them a base. It was the Americans and the CIA. And the Americans who did this all got medals and good careers, while all these years Afghans suffered from these Arabs and their allies. Now, when America is attacked, instead of punishing the Americans who did this, it punishes the Afghans.
· Afghan opposition leader and former mojahedin commander Abdul Haq was captured last week by the Taliban and executed as an American spy. This article is an edited version of an interview he gave on October 11 to Anatol Lieven of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. www.ceip.org
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001