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Asian editorial excerpts - TIME FOR TALKING.

TOKYO, Nov. 27 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the Asia-Pacific press:

TIME FOR TALKING (The Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney)

From the moment the United States launched its campaign against terrorism, the pace of military events in Afghanistan has far outstripped diplomacy. Making war is less complicated than making peace.

So it was no surprise that yesterday -- on the eve of an attempt to bring together, in the German city of Bonn, representatives of Afghan factions to discuss forming a multi-ethnic provisional government -- world attention was firmly focused on bloodier business.

The news that a large contingent of U.S. Marines had been landed from warships at the airport outside the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, means the war on the ground is entering a new phase.

It followed the reported slaughter by Northern Alliance forces, backed by U.S. helicopter gunships, of hundreds of foreign prisoners who had been captured while fighting for the Taliban. With Taliban territory shrinking rapidly, the pursuit of its leaders and of Osama bin Laden by U.S., British and, potentially, Australian special forces will be intensified.

The speed of the ground war makes the search for a broadly based post-Taliban political arrangement, however untidy, all the more urgent.

A provisional government controlled by the victorious Northern Alliance would be a recipe for continuing disaster for two reasons. First, it would effectively exclude the largest ethnic group in the country, the Pashtun. Second, the Northern Alliance is less an alliance than an inherently unstable coalition of ethnically diverse groups led by distrustful warlords.

This is why it is so important that the United Nations-sponsored conference opening in Bonn today at least launches a political process. It is also why it would be foolish to expect quick success.

The major players, those who control the guns, will not be present. The Taliban leaders are on the run. The alliance has sent lieutenants, not decision-makers. The Pashtun voice will be provided by the Peshawar group of Pakistan-based opposition politicians. Also represented will be the Rome-based, aged, former King Zahir Shah and a group of exiled, Iran-backed intellectuals.

The one reason for hope is that all the Bonn delegations know that reaching a political accommodation is a precondition for the massive international help that is needed if their shattered country is to be reconstructed.

(Nov. 27)
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Dec 3, 2001
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