Peter Tomsen, a career U.S. diplomat, served as special envoy to the Afghan resistance from 1989 to 1992.
It was 4 a.m. on June 23, 2001, and a few distant stars punctured the darkness above the Uzbek city of Samarkand. I stepped out into the night, leaving the lobby of a concrete, Stalinist-era hotel, accompanied by Abdul Haq, an Afghan Pashtun leader in the anti-Taliban resistance. At his invitation, I was accompanying Haq to his meeting with northern Tajik Commander Ahmed Shah Masood to discuss a strategy to end the long Afghan war.
We climbed into a waiting SUV, along with Haq’s bodyguard and American businessman James Ritchie, a friend of Haq. The driver headed east, toward Dushanbe, the capital of neighboring Tajikistan, a 12-hour drive away. We were scheduled to hold two days of meetings in Dushanbe with Masood, known as “the Lion of the Panjshir,” after the valley from which he hailed in northern Afghanistan. Haq looked forward to enlisting Masood’s cooperation in his plan to overthrow the Pakistan-backed Taliban regime in Kabul. He hoped Masood would help rally the anti-Taliban centers around the country to replace the Taliban regime with an inter-ethnic Afghan coalition under the political leadership of Zahir Shah, the one-time Afghan king who lived in exile in Rome. Haq’s plan was sound. No ethnic group in Afghanistan comprised a majority of the population. All demanded a seat at the table and were well armed. Haq said he wanted me along to reinforce his effort to bring Afghans together. Moderate pluralism, he said, not Taliban totalitarianism, was the Afghan way.
Masood greeted us warmly in his living room at his Dushanbe home. Nine years had elapsed since we last met in his sprawling Ministry of Defense office in Kabul, before the Taliban came to power. The crevices in his face were now longer and deeper.
Is al oud, maar ik geef het weer als inkijk in de situatie.