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OPPORTUNITY EXISTS FOR A BETTER RESULT FOR AFGHANISTAN

News of intensified U.S. bombing north of the Afghanistan capital of Kabul poses the question: What if Kabul falls to the Northern Alliance's anti-Taliban forces?

Since the U.S. attacks began Oct. 7, neither the alliance nor America has acknowledged any pact. The alliance doesn't claim U.S. allegiance because it doesn't want to be seen as being propped up by an outside force; America hasn't because in some respects the alliance is as questionable as the Taliban . . . Both the alliance (composed of independent war lords with no governing authority) and America, though, find themselves together on one issue: both target the Taliban.

Some have wondered if the alliance takes Kabul if there would be any difference for the people of Afghanistan. Here is where the United Nations could play a key role. . . . If the alliance takes Kabul, there could be an opportunity for the United Nations to step in with a peace-keeping force to usher in a more representative, stable government.

Although President Bush has rejected nation building, as he calls it, last week the State Department's Richard Haass met in Rome with Mohammad Zahir Shah, 86, the king deposed in 1974, reportedly to discuss returning. The war in Afghanistan is a long way from being resolved, particularly the focus of the campaign: eradicating those responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But it is possible that in addition to removing terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, a better situation for the people of Afghanistan will result.

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