Taliban Watching

Afghanistan's neighbors have felt a general suspicion and distaste for the Taliban regime ever since the Islamist fundamentalists captured Kabul in 1996, and these concerns often play out in the press. While the casual Western observer might equate Iran's fundamental-ism with that of the Taliban, the Iranians in fact have been fierce critics of the Kabul regime-especially since the killing of eight Iranian diplomats and one Iranian journalist by Taliban forces a year ago.

A typical opinion piece in the English-language daily Tehran Times attacked Taliban oppression of women, support of terrorism, and drug trafficking out of Afghanistan. The unidentified writer approvingly quoted Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as commenting:

"The Taliban claim that they act in the name of Islam, while they carry out actions unacceptable to Islam."

The Saudi pro-government newspaper Al-Jazira, of Riyadh, also is critical of the Taliban, but blames both the regime and the rebels of the so-called Northern Alliance for the continued fighting in Afghanistan. Referring to the victory over Soviet invaders in the 1980s, the paper comments with customary obliqueness, "They allowed their enemies to turn them into agents and hirelings serving the interests of foreigners, who do not care about the unity of the Afghan people and land."