Northern Alliance: British Forces in Afghanistan without Approval
British commandos are operating at the Bagram airbase north of here without the agreement of the Northern Alliance, a senior official of the anti-Taliban coalition told AFP Saturday.
"The British forces perhaps have an agreement with the UN but not with us," Northern Alliance Defense Minister Mohammad Quassim Fahim said by telephone.
Around 100 Royal Marines commandos flew into Bagram Thursday to pave the way for several thousand more troops to be sent to Afghanistan and to help safeguard aid supplies.
But their precise role remains unclear, with Britain sending out mixed messages on whether they will actively chase down fleeing Taliban fighters and join the hunt for alleged terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
The elite troops are at Bagram 10 miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Kabul "solely because of the onset of winter to facilitate humanitarian aid and to coordinate the UN aid programm," Fahim said.
"The Taliban, who were an obstacle to peace, have been eliminated. There is therefore no need for thousands of foreign troops," he said.
Northern Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani later told a press conference that his administration had no objection to foreign troops conducting humanitarian operations in Afghanistan.
But he sidestepped specific questions about the arrival of the British contingent.
"Some forces are here for security reasons, humanitarian reasons and demining reasons. As for humanitarian help, we have no objection," he said.
Northern Alliance foreign affairs spokesman Abdullah Abdullah also said the deployment of "thousands" of British soldiers would have to be discussed through the United Nations.
"If we are talking about the presence of thousands of troops it's another question which needs to be discussed. We are open to further consultation on this with the United Nations," he said.
In London, a defense ministry spokesman told AFP it was "too early to comment" on Fahim's claims.
"We are looking at this report very seriously and what we need to do now is to establish whether the people who are saying this do fully represent the Northern Alliance because it's made of many different factions, many different groups," he said.
He said the commandos' mission was to "make sure that the Bagram airfield is operational again and in a position to receive humanitarian aid flights".
The defense ministry has not put a number on how many more, if any, troops might join the commandos, but their ranks were expected to swell, possibly to more than 1,000 -- KABUL (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)