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Ceasefire agreed on Afghan
4 February 2002
Afghan and United Nations mediators joined American officials yesterday and tried to stop the resumption of bloody fighting for control of a province south of Kabul fighting that has underlined the weakness of the new Afghan government.
The negotiators succeeded in extending a ceasefire in the city of Gardez until Friday.
Last week's clashes in the city have pitted Bacha Khan Zadran, a warlord appointed by the government against the local council, the shura. Mr Zadran, whose forces captured part of Gardez before they were driven back, losing many prisoners, has threatened to launch a counter-attack.
Pointing to 200 of his fighters Mr Zadran said: "I am officially the governor of Gardez. I am ready for more fighting." The clashes left at least 61 dead, showing the fragility of central control in much of Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, the head of the interim government, has appealed for a larger international force to be stationed in the country.
There are 2,500 troops belonging to a British-led force mandated by the UN and stationed in Kabul. But the ferocity of recent fighting is likely to deter foreign countries from putting their troops at risk in a volatile political situation.
The present ceasefire in Gardez, negotiated under the protection of US Special Forces, is shaky. Mr Zadran said his dead soldiers were returned and prisoners belonging to his forces were released.
America is concerned that the faction fighting will make pursuit of members of al- Qa'ida and the Taliban more difficult. US aircraft dropped leaflets on Gardez urging an end to hostilities. "We are all in Afghanistan. We must be united," the leaflets said.
Patrick Cockburn (in Kabul)