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Burns: Plans for Afghan coalition government

CNN's Chris Burns in northern Afghanistan
CNN's Chris Burns in northern Afghanistan  

(CNN) -- The United States and its allies are working to form an international coalition to combat terrorism. As part of that effort, officials meeting in Rome, Italy, are working toward implementing an interim, coalition government that they believe will undermine the Taliban in Afghanistan.

CNN's Chris Burns is on assignment in northern Afghanistan, and talked Tuesday about recent developments.

BURNS: Well, there are efforts here and also, of course, in Rome, where the king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, he is the former king of Afghanistan and he seems to be the focal point for putting together some kind of an alliance, a coalition that would replace the Taliban, that being very important because if the Taliban fall, there's going to have to be some kind of replacement to fill in that power vacuum.

Former Afghan king offers to fill vacuum  

The Northern Alliance, which is here, has been fighting for the last five years to topple the Taliban. However, it is feared that because they represent mainly northern ethnic groups that there could be once again ethnic fighting that would break out if they came back to Kabul.

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So this coalition government is seen as very important, and that is what they've been putting together in talks in Rome in the last few days. They've agreed to put together an interim two-year government once they did get back to Kabul, and that would reassure the allies and the international community that there wouldn't be violence breaking out if there were U.S. airstrikes that weakened the Taliban to the point of falling.

Over my shoulder is the village of Jabul Saraj, and beyond that is the front. It's only about 20 kilometers away. These people are living in the shadow of war and there is a lot of anticipation, of course, of the impending air strikes, the Northern Alliance facing off with the Taliban only 20 kilometers from here, about 70 kilometers from Kabul.

The Northern Alliance, of course, is hoping that the air strikes will weaken the Taliban so they can proceed with their offensive and take Kabul.

CNN: Is there any reaction by the Northern Alliance to reports that the Taliban are trying to cut deals with tribes to the south, in the southern part of Afghanistan, where they still are talking about some power sharing in order to hang onto power?

BURNS: Absolutely. That comes as no surprise in reaction to what's going on in Rome and the efforts up here in trying to put together that coalition. Obviously some kind of damage control or a way to try to rescue themselves from that. The Northern Alliance, of course, says that they, the Taliban, have absolutely no credibility and should be toppled.

One other problem is that they say there's no such thing as a moderate Taliban, that could cause some tensions later on whereas the international community is trying to persuade this coalition that is being formed to incorporate moderate Taliban, that would also tend to undermine the Taliban regime right now.


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