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Chris Burns: Northern Alliance eyes U.S.-Pakistan relations

Chris Burns
Chris Burns  

(CNN) -- To most Americans, the Northern Alliance was virtually unknown before airstrikes began in Afghanistan. CNN's Martin Savidge spoke to CNN correspondent Chris Burns, who is reporting from Northern Afghanistan, about who they are and what concerns them.

MARTIN SAVIDGE: Chris Burns joins us now and he has been looking into and stationed with the Northern Alliance

CHRIS BURNS: Yes, Martin, well as I speak, you can hear ... a tank that's driving around. They are repairing and preparing their tanks and other artillery and so forth for an eventual strike, but it hasn't come yet.

As night falls, we wait to see if airstrikes might target other targets beyond Kabul and some other cities in the north. ...There are concerns among some commanders in the Northern Alliance that perhaps the U.S. is listening closer to Pakistan, (which) has been warning that the Northern Alliance might take advantage of the situation -- take power in Kabul and perhaps ignore some of the riots of the Pashtun population of the south. That Pashtun population is ethnically linked to the Pakistanis.

... What the Northern Alliance is concerned about is ... the Pakistani support of various factions five years ago, when the Northern Alliance was driven out during factional fighting and the Taliban took over. However, there's international pressure for the Northern Alliance to combine with other Afghan groups -- perhaps under the exiled king in Rome -- to form what could be a stable government that would replace the Taliban.

At which time, the U.S. and others involved in supporting opposition groups and attacking the Taliban would proceed to try to topple the Taliban in Kabul. So there is some political and military linkage that we'll have to be watching in the coming days.

SAVIDGE: Chris, the Northern Alliance is made up of a number of different factions all sort of pulling together for this joint effort. How cohesive and how well do they communicate among themselves?

BURNS: The Northern Alliance is made up of various ethnic groups, mainly ... Tajik and Uzbek. It also is composed of different warlords, different leaders of different groups and different parts, especially in Northern Afghanistan. And they have been known for various changes in alliances. ...

So that is the concern: Will they be able to hold together when they come to Kabul? And the international community is pressing them to combine with other groups, some kind of a broader base coalition that could better represent the country and perhaps provide more stability.


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