Afghan talks: Creating a post-Taliban Afghanistan
The meeting of various Afghan factions is aimed at discussing the future of the war-ravaged country and setting the stage for a transitional government.
However, it also is likely to be the first in a series of events in which the various Afghan factions jockey for power as a new government is created in the wake of Taliban rule.
The main item on the agenda is creating a broad-based interim government that would pave the way for a more permanent government determined by Afghans. The meeting is being coordinated by the United Nations at a retreat in Bonn, Germany.
"If we come out of this meeting with a framework for the process for a political transition, then we will have succeeded," said Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for the U.N.'s envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi. "This is the first step in a long road toward establishing good governance in Afghanistan."
But Afghanistan is a mosaic of cultures and tribes that speak multiple languages and have rivalries and feuds that date back centuries. Creating a framework for a new government is not likely to be easy.
The meeting is being attended by representatives of former King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the Northern Alliance and two other groups of Afghan exiles, one based in Pakistan and another based in Cyprus.
Afghanistan's various ethnic groups will be represented in all four groups as Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and other groups all hope to play a role in whatever post-Taliban government emerges.
Will the various Afghan factions be able to bridge rivalries and create broad-based government?
Will a U.N. peacekeeping force be required as a new government is developed?
Who are the Northern Alliance and other key players in the political landscape of Afghanistan? (Click here for more)
What will be the role of women in a post-Taliban Afghanistan? (Click here for more)
What interests do the nations border Afghanistan have in creating a new government for the country?
What kind of government will replace the Taliban if the religious group is removed as the country's government? Will there be a U.N. or international peacekeeping force in Kabul? (Click here for more)
Lakhdar Brahimi: The U.N. envoy to Afghanistan and a former Algerian diplomat. (Click here for more)
Francesc Vendrell: The deputy of U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi. A Spanish national, he has been with the United Nations since 1968, serving in a variety of posts, including work on peace negotiations in East Timor, Guatemala and Central America.
James Dobbins: The U.S. representative to the Afghan opposition. Before his appointment on November 6, he held a variety of senior State Department and White House posts with responsibility for national security, crisis management, and relations with Europe and Latin America.
Mohammed Zahir Shah: The former king of Afghanistan who ruled for 40 years before being deposed in 1973. He says he has no plans to rule again but says he can serve as a unifying figure around which all Afghans can rally. (Click here for more)
Burhanuddin Rabbani: The former Afghan president who was part of the Northern Alliance-led government deposed by the Taliban.
Northern Alliance: A group of former mujahedeen fighters, mainly from minority ethnic groups that oppose the Taliban. (Click here for more)
Peshawar delegation: A group of several hundred exiled Pashtuns that met last month in Peshawar, Pakistan. It is headed by religious leader Sayed Ahmad Gailani and has the backing of Pakistan.
Cyprus delegation: A group of Afghan exiles backed by Iran that includes intellectuals, former congressmen, government ministers and university professors.
Afghanistan has been devastated by more than 20 years of war brought on by imported ideologies: Stalinism from the Soviet Union, and the Taliban's a radical form of Islam, which came out of religious schools in Pakistan.
The U.N. conference is the first step in creating an interim government for a country still too weak and too divided to rebuild itself.
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