- They thanked the UN, the EU, each other and even the
Chancellor of Germany. But when Aghanistan's new interim government took
power yesterday, at a colourful ceremony at the Grand Hall of the Ministry
of the Interior in Kabul, there was no mention of the US, the country that
had made it all possible.
- To add to the surreal note, American representatives
overwhelmed those of every other country at the inauguration ceremony.
There was General Tommy Franks - who might have expected a victor ludorum
after vanquishing the Taliban - the US ambassador, State Department
secret service men and armed uniformed soldiers.
- Speech after speech passed without any reference to the
Americans and how they had changed Afghanistan. Even Hamid Karzai, the
new American-backed leader, made only fleeting reference to the 11
- The one name mentioned constantly, to roars of
and "Allahu akbar", was a man who was not there, but whose memory
overshadowed the proceedings.
- A huge portrait of Ahmed Shah Masood, the murdered leader
of anti-Taliban forces, loomed over the stage. The chair in the centre
was not given to Mr Karzai; it was draped in black, with another portrait
of the absent leader.
- Security was tight, with Northern Alliance soldiers and
police, and British Royal Marines, on duty. In the Grand Hall, Uzbeks and
Tajiks in tribal costumes, with Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders,
mingled with Kabulisin western clothes and Pashtuns.
- A uniformed guard of honour practised their drill,
out of step to a band playing out of tune, until they were forced to run
for cover because the fire brigade decided to try out one of their hoses,
soaking the red carpet.
- The 1,000-capacity hall was crammed with around 1,500
guests. Rows of military commanders in battle fatigues sat behind the
dignitaries. The Afghan soldiers wept as they sang their national anthem,
a mujahedin battle hymn written during the war against the Russians; old
enemies of the civil war, now friends, hugged each other.
- Mr Karzai said he would be only a caretaker leader and
prepare for a loya jirga (grand council) to decide the future of the
To cheers, he promised that the rights of women would be respected. There
are two women in the interim government.
- He proclaimed that the days of strife were over, and
that the political process would be smooth. Behind him sat the disparate
elements who make up his allies: warlords such as General Dostum, young
technocrats like Dr Abdullah Abdullah, and other Tajiks, Pashtuns and
- Apart from the few big names, the main attraction for
the international media were the women delegates. A car bringing five of
them was soon surrounded. Fahima Adi, headmistress of Mariam High School
in the city, said: "I knew there would be interest in us, but not
so much. If they ignore us next time, I'll know progress has been