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Afghanistan: Arena for a New Rivalry
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: International relations; Civil war
Author: Constable, Pamela
Date: Sep 16, 1998
Start Page: A.38
Section: A SECTION

Tensions in the region have been escalating rhetorically by the day -- and could explode into military conflict -- because of the killing of nine Iranian diplomats during intense civil warfare in northern Afghanistan last month. Furious at Afghanistan's foot-dragging on the matter, Tehran staged a massive military exercise along the Afghan border last week and has since said it will send 200,000 troops there, warning Monday that the threat of armed conflict is now "very huge and widespread."

"This marks a return to the regionalization of the Afghan conflict which we have not seen since 1979," when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of international relations at the University of Islamabad. "I don't think Iran will do anything rash, but the relationship between Iran and Pakistan has unraveled, and all of its contradictions are now coming into play."

Taliban officials accused Iran of providing military support to the opposition forces; Tehran radio accused Pakistan of sending its air force to bomb the city in support of the Taliban's advance and said Iran was holding Pakistan responsible for what it termed war crimes at Bamiyan. Pakistan has denied that accusation and previous allegations of direct involvement in the Afghan conflict.

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