Geronimo : What if Osama Bin Laden was killed prior to 9/11?

Niko: Ahhhhhhh!
Oh God! I can hear Niko scream as I speak.

I'm not trying to derail the thread of course, it's just a funny thought I had of Niko jumping off the Twin Towers screaming his lungs out while he falls.

Part L

Vladimir


Since Mikael Saakashvili was swept to power off the back of a popular revolution in Georgia, he set out an ambitious agenda to reform the post-soviet economy and dense bureaucracy into a modern streamlined European democracy. The country was rife with gang violence, stagnant wages, widespread corruption, decaying infrastructure and dysfunctional public services needed to be confronted with the hammer that Saakashvili sought to wield.

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3rd President of Georgia Mikael Saakashvili

His anti-corruption crusade transformed the nation's institutions, as hangers-on of the old regime were systematically forced out; corrupt politicians, public officials and police were investigated and arrested at such crippling speeds that some civil rights groups were concerned about an overreach of power, but Saakashvili brushed aside such complaints as getting “in the way of the post-revolutionary Georgia”.

Civil servant pay was boosted to discourage bribery and a ‘state building’ campaign commenced to revamp Georgia's withered public services, combatting tax evasion, and deregulating industry to attract outside investment. There was a marketable improvement, as millions of dollars and euros began to flood into the country as entrepreneurs and speculators were keen to invest in what looked like the world’s freshest thriving democracy.

Water, electricity, hospitals, and schools received renovations at dramatic speeds, there still remained lagging problems of poverty and lingering unemployment but to many, hope had finally been restored to the country.

Of course, there were still major tensions in the nation, most prominently the unruly provinces, South Ossetia, Abkhazia (both separatist-controlled) and Adjara (de facto independent). Saakashvili made restoring Tbilisi’s control over the provinces a top priority but had so far been blocked by the consistent intervention of neighbouring Russia into the debate, which had sent tacit backing to the province’s rulers in the guise of 'peacekeepers'. While maintaining a military base in Batumi the provincial capital of Adjara.

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Map of Georgia, separatist regions in orange, Adjara in blue

Saakashvili had tried to utilize popular support to force Adjara to capitulate to the central government but the plan failed when the Adjara chairman Aslan Abashidze used loyal militia and security forces on top of supportive Russian riflemen to hold back protesters and prevent Georgian intervention.

Saakashvili and the Tbilisi government decided to wait Abashidze out, with local elections scheduled for March 2005, Saakashvili believed that he could be forced from office after a resounding electoral defeat, the government initiated a campaign to counter any potential rigging, sent aid to the government's supporters including undercover officers to the region for security and commenced a propaganda campaign to expose Abashidze corruption.

This all arrived as relations between Tbilisi, Moscow and the northern breakaway regions deteriorated. Following the 4/9 attacks in Russia and the escalating spats between the countries Georgia refused to participate in CIS security meetings and Saakashvili either did not attend (or was not invited) to the attacks memorial or the upcoming 60th great patriotic war victory parade. Additionally, clashes between Georgian forces and South Ossetia increased, while Saakashvili continued to reach out to the United States for military training and economic aid.

While the nations of the world gathered to hear the thumping bombast of the red army orchestra, Saakashvili made his journey to Adjara to celebrate the upcoming reclamation, following his parties victory (over 60% of the vote) in the local election and to witness the inauguration of a close ally into the chairman’s position, a major victory in his quest to reunite Georgia.

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(Left) the President attends Georgias 2nd World War ceremony, (Right) Saakashvili campaigning

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Georgia's President killed by grenade
By Michael Dobbs
May 13, 2005


Mikael Saakashvili, the Georgian President and the leader of the Rose Revolution that peacefully toppled the country's strongman leader Eduard Shevardnadze, was attacked and killed today by an explosive as he approached a crowd of supporters outside the regional parliament in the coastal city of Batumi.

The Georgian government has immediately declared a state of emergency, suspending all political activity in the year-old republic and has now imposed a strict media blackout to ‘prevent misinformation’. Local Police and security forces are on a massive manhunt for Saakashvili’s killer or killers setting up roadblocks and more army troops have entered the province on the back of trucks and tanks.

The President had a fierce rivalry with the region's leader Aslan Abashidze who has so far refused to acknowledge the new governments control over the region and barred most government officials from entering the territory, but as Abashidze's term of office was due to expire, Saakashvili came to promote his preferred replacement.

The Georgian Government has said that the killing resulted from a grenade being thrown at the feet of the President by a still unidentified assailant, but suspicion has fallen on pro-Abashidze militia groups or members of his loyal state security. Interior Minister Merabishvili said of the groups “they known for their militant opposition to the government [in the capital] and the President,[they are against his efforts to eliminate organized crime and unite Georgia under democracy”.

Saakashvili was a close ally of Washington and supported further integration with the European Union and NATO.

News reports in Tbilisi have reported that Georgian Military forces have entered the Adjara region to enforce an order of martial law requested by acting-president Nino Burjanadze. The murder has further eroded Georgia’s political stability and it follows the death of Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania last February from carbon monoxide poisoning though some within the country are suspicious of potential foul play.

It has been just over a year since Saakashvili won his overwhelming Presidential victory, leading a pro-democratic and pro-western coalition of politicians into power, and he made powerful enemies in the process, from organized crime to separatist organizations, former communists and dissident groups within the police and army. Saakashvili survived an apparent assassination last year when several gunmen were detained by the President's supporters outside a rally.

Well-liked by western governments, including the United States, President Edwards said:
“History will remember President Saakashvili for his strong leadership in Georgia’s successful struggle to peacefully liberate itself and build a new democratic future.”





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3rd President of Georgia Mikael Saakashvili
The death of the President sparked a major political crisis and spawned a state of emergency in Georgia. Immediately, military and police forces responded as the units crossed the Adjaran border to quell potential unrest. The interior ministry put forward the demand that Abashidze immediately resigns his office, and condemn any attempt to subvert the military order. Abashidze complied, resigning his position as Georgian troops instituted martial law and strict curfews encountering no real resistance apart from the occasional disapproving scowl.

The most important group’s opinion was those of the residents of the '12th Military Base' outside Batumi. The 89th Rifle Division stayed quiet and remained on base at the time of the assassination making no manoeuvres to counter the military directive, their influence seemingly evaporating following Abashidze’s resignation.

In the days that followed the assassination, the nation mourned en masse. Despite growing numbers of detractors, Saakashvili was still enormously popular throughout the country, as the man who ended the decrepit Shevardnadze era looked upon by many as the new father of the nation. Politicians of all stripes even those of the old regime stood in mourning as the coffin clad in the cross of Saint George was carried through the street. Followed by his widow and children, flanked by his political comrades including acting President Burjanadze.

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State funeral of Mikael Saakashvili

Following his death, military forces and police detained hundreds of suspects still searching for the person responsible for the assassination, one of the detained included the now-former Adjara Chairman Abashidze, held on a dozen charges relating to abusing his power while in office. A sudden turn for the man who only weeks ago had ruled the region as a personal fiefdom, expecting to be allowed to leave the country at the end of his tenure with a hefty endowment in his back pocket.

The interior ministry additionally placed a 250,000 Iari ($130,000) reward on information leading to the assassin's capture and the minister Merabishvili gave routine televised updates on the government’s pursuit. Weeks into the manhunt, following a tip-off, in a live broadcast senior ministry officials and officers led a raid on the suspect’s home. Military units surrounded the house engaged in a gunfight and captured the suspect, one Vladimir Arutyunian, an ethnically Armenian Georgian with links to the Democratic Revival Party Abashidze’s political party, but more concerning was his manner of dress at the time of the capture, a Russian military uniform. Russia was swift to deny that Arutyunian had ever served in the Russian military and the Georgian government admitted that it wasn’t hard to get a Russian uniform in Georgia, but it still fed into the widespread belief that Russia was continually undermining Georgia's sovereignty, Artunyian himself admitted to being the assassin but refused to provide a motive.

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(Left) Interior Minister Merabishvili (Right) Saakashvili assassin Artunyian following arrest

With the immediate security crisis resolved, the country was allowed to move on to its political crisis, the need to replace Saakashvili. To fix this, an emergency election was scheduled for June, but it became clear swiftly who the next President would be when the acting-President and Speaker of the Parliament Nino Burjanadze the only surviving member of the Rose Revolution trifecta declared her intention to contest the upcoming election.

A key figure in the Georgian government for the last decade, Burjanadze was widely seen as a key figure of the revolution though with less personal popularity than the outspoken Saakashvili or Zhvania. She was the first woman to sit in the Georgian Parliament and exemplified the professional revolutionary as opposed to her public-facing more populist compatriots, possibly owing to her background as a ‘bread heiress’. She eulogized the former President “We will not let the enemies of the revolution of roses erase our achievements, nor will spilt blood intimidate us, we will not allow our country to be disintegrated” and committed to fulfilling Saakashvili’s vision “We will continue to walk the path of democracy, of unity, of stability, security … and we seek to open the door to Europe and NATO to reach out to our transatlantic friends to solve our conflicts by peaceful means.”

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(Centre) Nino Burjanadze only surviving member of the revolutionary triumvirate (Left) Saakashvili, (Right) Zhvania

The following week Burjanadze fielded a phone call with the American President Edwards where for the first time he expressed his endorsement of Georgia joining NATO a major acknowledgement of the nation’s goals. However cold water was thrown on that good news as yet another flare-up began in South Ossetia, as reports of separatists kidnapping Georgians came to her.

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2005 Georgian presidential election Wiki Box

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4th Georgian President Nino Burjanadze
Nice update, Iwanh! Nice to see what's going on in the country of Georgia.
 
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Another song that is butterflied away for TTL:
I recall Outkast's Bombs Over Baghdad being very popular around campus that spring (completely missing the point of the song, but what do you expect from 18-21 year olds?, at least it replaced that god-awful Toby Keith song).
 
Probably not, considering he ran in 2004 ITTL, it's likely they're still together. A little known fact is that Gore's divorce from Tipper was the main reason for him not running 2004 OTL.
It was? Really? Did Tipper want Gore to run in 04 IOTL? Also from what I understand, while Al & Tipper are divorced, they're still on good terms with each other and still see each other with their family at Christmas.
 
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Part 51: Withdrawn
Part LI: Withdrawn

Canada


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in a weak position, though the Conservatives had won the 2004 election, defeating the incumbent Liberal party and PM Paul Martin, they had failed to achieve a majority, far from it. Harper’s Conservatives though the party with the most influence, had only scraped into that position with 124 seats, 31 seats shy of a majority forming the smallest minority government in Canadian history.

This put Harper's government at the mercy of the opposition composed of disgruntled Liberals, the rising Quebecois and the invigorated New Democrats, each ready and willing to take jabs at the government until finally pulling its plug in a vote of no-confidence.

The strongest advantage Harper had, was that the opposition parties had considerable disagreements amongst themselves and were not prepared to link arm in arm to bring down the government just yet. Harper held private consultations with each of the sitting parties and agreed to work in “close consultation to ensure that the government is able to continue its duties.” And the opposition MPs agreed, abstaining from confidence votes.

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Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper

When Harpers government was sworn in in October, those who hoped that the precarious state of the government would allow for tensions to cool were quickly dispelled of that notion, when seven days later the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its ruling confirming that Same-Sex Marriage was not in breach of the constitution and therefore could be enacted by the federal and local governments.

The ruling caused a stir within the Houses of Parliament as Harper had come to office pledging to “protect the traditional definition of marriage” but “without taking away the rights of same-sex couples” this had been critiqued prior to the election as Harper trying to have it both ways, attempting to appeal to traditional conservative voters without scaring off moderates. Specifically, he pledged a ‘free vote’ to allow ministers to vote as they felt on the issue. Polls on same-sex marriage were usually close, between 45-50% both for and against it, and more and more provinces/territories were ruling in favour, and now with the highest court’s ruling, opposition parties fuelled the fire of controversy and demanded a national vote on the issue.

Harper stepped up to the challenge, confident that he had the votes and the popular support on his side, slapping down the private member's bill as “fundamentally flawed, we can’t be blindly ideological here, we will bring legislation that will define marriage as the union of one man and one woman”.

It wasn’t the only topic that Harper was willing to do battle on, when finance minister Monte Solberg unveiled the proposed budget, it revealed an unabashedly conservative laundry list. Raising funds for the Canadian armed forces and police, spending cuts, tax credits, lowering tax rates, increasing the amount of untaxable income, scrapping funding for the Kyoto accords and First Nations Education. The budget was pitched as a project to stimulate the economy and return the government's surplus to the public.

Opposition parties savaged the budget as “Squandering our surplus and ignoring working families without childcare” or “unbalanced in Canada's interests” but economists were largely pleased with the bill and considered it fairly pragmatic thanks to Canada’s strong economy. Neither the Liberals nor NDP supported the bill demanding negotiations on corporate tax cuts and public service cuts, but the Quebecois silently nodded its passage through.

As Harper sailed ahead the Liberal party attempted to tread water, dragged down by the anchors of scandal and schism. Former PM Martin owed his loss largely to the fallout from the sponsorship scandal, that alleged kickbacks had been provided to Liberal party allies. Despite the party's electoral defeat, the investigations continued and Prime Minister Harper wasted no time in supporting the enquiry and calling for public hearings into the affair, pushing for the public testimony of many Liberal party higher-ups, in response to several of the accused including PM’s Chretien and Martin charged the investigation with bias. On top of the legal trouble, the party was trudging through a leadership race between bitter Chretien and Martin supporters, leaving its interim leader Bill Graham to head the opposition during the current period of political anxiety.

Harper also received the opportunity to be the first foreign leader to meet with U.S. President Edwards alongside Mexican President Vicente Fox, where each of the three men discussed the thorny issue of the North American Free Trade Agreement which Edwards had made reforming a key feature of his presidential campaign. Harper decided to move first and declared he was ready to “start a dialogue to move NAFTA forward … and realize its true potential to help all our industries”. Hoping to settle the long-running trade disputes between the neighbours.

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Meeting of North American leaders, President Fox, President Edwards and PM Harper

The first months of Harper's premiership saw his image largely improve nationwide as the Liberal party continued to wallow in its post-election depression and the public was not displeased with most of the budget. But regardless, he still had no majority to speak of and when the Liberals finally elected a new permanent leader former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna someone who had stayed well away from the Liberal party’s power struggle to unite the party, the heat began to really fall on Harper.

The country became mired in the cultural battle of same-sex marriage as Harper stuck to his guns for a parliamentary vote on the practice, putting forward a bill that would define marriage as between a man and a woman, prohibiting same-sex marriage, but legalizing civil unions. For months, the country saw rallies and counter-rallies to push wavering members to pick a side. And outsiders began to doubt the so-called ‘free vote’ that Harper offered as he put the screws on his own backbenchers to vote for the bill. While some raised constitutional complications that ban legislation could require overriding the courts.

Supporters and detractors of the government effort sprang from across the country to lobby for its passage/defeat. Catholic and other religious groups featured prominently “We can’t allow the collaboration of the media, courts and politicians to remodel the central institution of family,” said the Toronto civil rights league and the Liberal party was also split along its rural and immigrant supporters whom the party allowed to vote freely on the bill.

On the 28th of June 2005, the Canadian House of Commons passed legislation overturning the vast majority of the country's same-sex marriage laws, while legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples, and defining marriage as between a man and a woman. After a tense day of voting in the chamber with both sides evenly split a near state of chaos descended on the house. At one point it was thought the speaker may have to make a tie-breaking vote, but The Conservatives managed to whip the one final vote threatening that it could be a vote of no confidence in the government passing the bill 151-150 votes.

The bill effectively overturned gay marriage in seven Canadian provinces despite strong opposition from the other parties, aiding the passage nearly a third of Liberal MPs voted for the bill and the fury of the debate led to several Conservative and Liberal members defecting to their opposite benches.

Harper took a victory lap “this shows the government’s commitment to traditional marriage, and the law should reflect that this is a compromise that the clear majority of Canadians support.” But the bill was by no means the end of the fight, a laundry list of problems cropped up; Senate opposition, provincial opposition and judicial opposition would each take the bill on. Gay rights groups were dismayed and angry at the outcome “this is a heart-breaking decision” said one campaigner “the government is destroying lives and pretending they aren’t, hundreds of couples who made their vows have had that taken from them”, However, traditionalists celebrated, “the government has upheld the norm, rather than be dictated to by the courts” said one Conservative MP.

Though a victory for Harper the controversial move harmed his relationship with the Bloc Quebecois a key part of his workable majority, combined with the dent in his popularity the opposition prepared to sign off on a vote of no confidence to bring his government down, Fortunately, Harper ran out the clock packing and rescheduling parliamentary sessions to prevent the opposition bringing a bill to vote before the beginning of the summer recess. Once parliament was no longer in session, tempers slowly cooled and the threat of the government collapsing fell. To shore itself up the government decided to recognise Quebec as a nation preserving Harpers Premiership after a rocky first year.

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(left) Rainbow flag in front of Canadian parliament, (right) Prime Minister Harper

Iran

Iran was a consistent thread in the news, from the revelation last year that the republic had spent years covertly developing its nuclear infrastructure onwards no respectable newspaper was complete without an update on the nation’s nuclear programme and its internal politics.

Most focused on the ideological divide within the country between the ‘moderates’ and the ‘hardliners’. Since 1997 Iran had been under the Presidency of Mohammed Khatami a reformist who hoped to usher in an Islamic democracy, and normalise relations with the west (or so went the op-eds) only to be stifled by the others, the clerics, the revolutionary guard even the ayatollah. His reforms each neutered one by one, leaving him a husk of a leader ‘in power’ only nominally, propped up to eke out his final days in office.

The hardliners had done so by arresting supporters, shuttering newspapers, breaking up demonstrations and forcing Khatami to back down from reform. But they hadn’t been entirely successful, Khatami had made every effort to open the door to future progress, establishing methods of negotiations with the United States, though his enemies tried to tar him as despised he had plenty of passionate supporters who hoped his leadership would serve the bridgehead to greater reform and would not back down in the coming election, regardless of the odds stacked against them.

The conservatives nominated several candidates most prominently Mohammed Ghalibaf the former commander of police a popular conservative for his tough-on-crime attitudes and played up his role in suppressing student protests while accepting moderate reforms opening the typically shadowy police to some public scrutiny. Other right-wing candidates included Ali Larijani a well-connected insider on the National Security Council popular among the clerical class and older leaders and the mayor of Teran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a populist who championed himself as a “servant of the poor” who implemented increasingly conservative restrictions whole vocally opposing closer relations with the west in his campaign.

To confront the hardliners the opposition united behind former President Akbar Rafsanjani, while not a reformist in Khatami’s vein he was definitely more moderate than any of the right-wing candidates. A well-known, well-liked President with a streak of relative liberalism it was hoped he could act as a popular counterweight to the ascendant right wing. Finally, there was Mehdi Karoubi like Rafsanjani he was an alumnus of the older generation of clerics but he was more publicly aligned with the reformists, considered more economically left-wing, he had been perpetually on the outskirts of Iran’s centre of power.

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Iranian presidential candidates clockwise from the top left
Mohammad Ghalibaf, Akbar Rafsanjani, Ali Larijani, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mehdi Karroubi andMohsen Rezaei

Polls greatly wavered in their predictions but generally showed that Rafsanjani was the man to beat as the candidate with the greatest name recognition and party-political support, but no candidate was likely to receive the outright majority needed to avoid a runoff election.

The clear divide among the right-wing worried some higher-ups and legislation was considered to create a maximum age requirement for candidates which would bar the two reform candidates from the ballot, but this decision was dropped following backlash.

Ultimately the campaign focused on the growing tensions and cultural clash in the country centred around Iran’s relationship with the world concerning its nuclear programme, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as internal fissure trying to meld fundamentalism and liberalism together. The campaign saw a strange mix of largely moderate campaigning as all candidates rushed to the centre while on the streets there were scenes of extreme violence as campaign offices were targeted with firebombs and posters burned. President Mohammad Khatami said in a letter quoted by the official news media, "It seems there is an organized movement to hurt the glorious process of the elections.".

On June 18th for the first time since the revolution, a runoff election was forced after voters failed to provide a majority to any candidate. It proved to be the most competitive in the country’s history, with the turnout at 76% (10% more than the previous) despite a boycott from some extreme anti-regime circles. Advancing to the runoff was the reformist Mehdi Karroubi by far the most left-wing candidate by Iranian standards and the hardliner Mohammad Ghalibaf the favourite of the clerics who surged following a concerted effort by the Ayatollah's office.

Among a divided field, both candidates narrowly prevailed over their ideological counterparts with the ultraconservative Ahmadinejad placing 3rd and centrist Rafsanjani unexpectedly in 4th.

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Runoff candidates (left) Ghalibaf, (right) Karroubi

The runoff campaign was a powerful ideological clash. Both candidates made broad appeals to the voters, Ghalibaf ran an unmistakably European-style campaign, penning a detailed manifesto, focus grouping the public and pledging to tackle unemployment, corruption and crime rolling out the newest computer software to detail election strategies. Compared to Karroubi the white-haired cleric who ran a campaign the old-fashioned way travelling across the country to political rallies with a simple campaign pledge of universally providing $60 per month and pledges to weaken the clerics' grasp over the politics of the nation while presenting as a traditional conservative on cultural issues.

Despite expectations of a close contest Ghalibaf the hardliner handily defeated the reformist Karoubi with nearly a double-digit lead. But it didn’t take long for Karoubi to question the result alleging that the Revolutionary Guard and powerful clerics had collaborated to put the election decisively in Ghalibafs favour, depressing turnout in poor rural areas, intimidating student voters and even the wholesale discarding and stuffing of ballots. He had support for his claims, official results showed that in minority areas turnout was improbably high and skewed almost wholesale in Ghalibafs favour. However, it was possible that Karoubi also failed to make significant inroads with Iran’s growing branch of more secular and liberal young voters who were unenthused or that Ghalibaf was able to outmanoeuvre Karoubi by unveiling a centrist-populist campaign his own portraying himself as the outsider best able to deliver slower paced reform.

Ghalibafs victory meant that the conservatives now held control over all power levels of the country, with a hardliner albeit a more technocratic and softer-spoken one than some clerics hoped for. Western minds were certain that the short-lived détente with Iran brokered earlier in the year would expire and only a month later the suspended enrichment process resumed.

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2005 Iran election Wikibox

Afghanistan

“It is a glorious day, today Afghans have agreed to rise from the ashes, that decades of conflict, thousands of destroyed homes and slaughtered children may end, the crime of civil war will be lifted from the Afghan people. Today both sides have agreed to a mutual ceasefire and a peaceful withdrawal to allow the people to lead normal lives … this was not just war, it was a war for false reasons where Afghans were set against each other. Brothers fighting brothers, fathers fighting sons, farmers left with burned crops and labourers with guns in their arms. Both sides have agreed that this war must stop, the Taliban for the sake of peace for the many, have agreed to withdraw from Kabul and other parts of the country. All sides, all families have suffered and now the killing stops.” – Ahmed Shah Massoud. July 11th, 2005

Following months of protracted negotiations between the Northern Alliance and Taliban representatives, the first leap in progress was announced on July 11th when the two groups agreed to a sustained ceasefire throughout the whole of Afghanistan. The agreement meant that for the first time since the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the country could breathe a sigh of relief that a factional, sectarian, misery-inducing conflict that had taken the lives of an unknowable number of Afghans, on and off the battlefield could be nearing its end.

The agreement spared the capital Kabul, a city of nearly half a million people from the monstrosity of open warfare, aerial bombardment and the subsequent swill of festering deceases and atrocity that always followed in the war's wake. After the religious councils conferred Taliban forces began to uniformly withdraw from their trenches and nests dug into the city. And the picture proof, of hundreds of trucks topped with machine guns and fighters exiting the city, went public. Footage of troops and administrators left the city they had captured and dominated for nearly 10 years.

The Northern Alliance forces followed; the rag-tag militia captained by Massoud that had fled the city all those years ago on foot often shoeless finally returned. A clean, steely, spit and polish military. Envigored in their victory surrounded by a city stinking of death. Despite the mercy granted, buildings still lay in ruin and bodies in shallow graves if buried at all. But many still came out from their homes to greet the liberators.

The citizens reported fearing the worst “We’ve been hiding for weeks, afraid to go out” The Taliban had confiscated everything with wheels to facilitate their withdrawal to the southern or eastern provinces with heavy weapons strapped to the sides of cars, donkeys towing rockets. jubilant crowds flew once-banned kites and blared previously illegal music. But with the arrival of the new forces came gunplay and street justice, Arab Jihadists always clung on barricading themselves into buildings vowing to fight to the death before they killed themselves with grenades.

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(Left to Right) Northern Alliance troops and Tanks entering Kabul, Northern Alliance leader Massoud

Outside of the capital, the withdrawal agreement and the ceasefire effected elsewhere, in the centre and west of the country where Taliban forces had been under heavy Russian bombardment and Alliance assault, their forces happily conformed to the spirit of the accord, dropping anything that weighed them down to reach a ‘safe province’ where Massoud had pledged his forces would not enter. The remaining forces fled the western and central provinces of Herat, Farah, Ghor, Daykundi and Wardak as a mix of local rebels, Alliance forces and turncoat warlords each proclaimed allegiance to the new government in Kabul.

The Taliban withdrawal was intended to be an organized retreat, but as it progressed in the city of Herat, Afghanistan’s 3rd largest city. Organized rebels freshly strapped with Russian armaments and helicopters. The old Mujahidin leader Ismail Khan entered the country from his long exile through Turkmenistan with 4,000 men. Keen to eke the last few drops of the Taliban’s blood while they could. Hoping to cut off the Taliban retreat, Khan's forces launched a coordinated strike on the airport, communications facilities and tunnel complexes, as Russian jets occasionally strafed the sky. Khan's forces were comprised mostly of exiles to Iran and the coordination of his campaign hinted that Iranians were aiding the planning of his successful offensive, which served to punctuate the pain in the Taliban soldier's feet as they marched into the southern mountains. Further claims of Iranian influence were substantiated by further border exile incursions capturing border towns including the provincial capital Zaranj.

Khan (the lion of Herat) quickly installed himself as the new “elected” governor-general pledging to restore the damaged city and mourning the loss of ancient Buddhist and royalist architecture, torn down in the purist's reign. Khan's return also underscored the fear many outsiders had, that the return of warlords to Afghanistan was not the recipe for prolonged peace and democracy. Khan was a vocal advocate for the return of the exiled King, Mohammad Zahir to return to the throne. “Traditional warlords are reclaiming their territory and their power, they are unlikely to cede it to a central government soon” warned The New York Times, Khan was similarly unimpressed by the prospect of UN peacekeepers or any foreign soldiers remaining in Afghanistan.

Despite the withdrawal, parts of the conflict remained very hot. The Nangahar Province was a strong defensive point for the Taliban, the origin of many of its fighters and the summer heat rendered created unbearable temperatures and dust storms nigh impossible to combat. But the region represented a large target to the Northern Alliances supporters, seen as a home for Jihadist factions, these included the infamous Al-Qaida organisation and the Haqqani network. With the fall of Kabul, and the destruction of Taliban air forces the province had been severed from more southern Taliban forces. Exposed, bands of tribal Afghan leaders came together to unseat the leadership themselves. The battle without Masoud’s machinery was fierce as the mujahedeen buried themselves into the mountains, utilizing underground cave networks in the Tora Bora mountains and were able again to utilize their remaining armoured equipment. The tribal alliance known as the ‘Eastern Shura’ were well equipped with soviet weaponry and explosives but after two weeks of fighting had been unable to dislodge the Taliban, Shura tribal chief Abdul Haq remained sure-footed “We will return law and order here, god willing, it could take months but we have cut their supply lines, they will soon run out of bullets and food”.

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Afghan Warlords and the provinces they claim control over.
(Top) Ismail Khan and Herat province
(Bottom) Abdul Haq and Nangahar province

The Taliban withdrawal shook the levers of power inside the Taliban leadership, as religious and military leaders frantically worked to avoid the total collapse of their territory. Several discarded their allegiances, others were concerned that the Alliance would attack their remaining territory and fled into exile prematurely and some were so disgusted at the thought of sharing power with an infidel-backed government that they abandoned the movement, pledging to fight on anyway, or abandoned the field returned to their homes. Mullah Omar remained firm to the withdrawal agreement and stayed in continued contact with the new government in Kabul, prepared to entertain negotiations over the terms of the new Afghanistan.

For a moment it looked as if the entire Taliban regime would collapse and there was doubtless pressure placed on Massoud to withdraw his offer of clemency and move in for the kill, capture the remaining Taliban strongholds in the south and east. These pressures pulsed both from within his administration and from hundreds of miles away in foreign capitals. Betray the Taliban now, as they had many times previously, but Massoud remained committed to a fully-fledged peace agreement, one that would make Afghanistan whole again. As he entered Kabul surrounded by his closest allies, friends and comrades already plastering effigies of him onto every remaining wall in the city he declared the beginning of a new era for Afghanistan. His close comrade Abdullah declared to foreign reporters and governments that a new transitionary government would be established to create a new Islamic democratic state, with a new constitution, and a new court system and invited all parties including the Taliban to attend to ensure a lasting peace. Massoud called it a “return to Afghanistan’s traditional roots, the loya jirga (grand assembly) not rule by the gun”.

The message was out, that the foundations of peace and the new government would be decided at once and every faction in the country was prepared for the opportunity, but scepticism ran deep, decades of bloody warfare had taken close friends' lives, and laid waste home villages and many were resentful that it had taken foreign intervention by Russians, British and Americans to ‘free’ Afghanistan. “Tensions are high,” said a U.N. envoy “but there is a real, genuine thirst for peace from all sides, a willingness to compromise but no one knows if it will be genuine or another false hope … everyone needs reassurance that this will not be a ‘victors peace’ and so far Massoud is providing.”

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(Left) Map of Afghanistan Red for the Northern Alliance and allies, Blue for the Taliban and its allies
(Right) Map of Afghan provinces and their control following Taliban withdrawal, striped provinces are contested


… Somewhere in Afghanistan

“Strap your seat belts on. It’s time to get back on the offensive.”

All three of them were chomping at the bit “Gentlemen” I said, “we need to create two forward deployments one onto Jalalabad and one to the north behind them.” These were the areas where the most committed Taliban were. Where they had trained and operated from, for over 15 years. Those were the bastards that bombed our bases and now it was time to pay them a visit. “G█████, you’re leading the team into some very hostile territory, no more admin, right into the fray.”



Kalashnikovs in hand, heads wrapped, some of us even had Korans. Indistinguishable from a good Afghan Muslim apart from our blonde hair and Texan accents. We were here to bag the worst of the worst and so far that was what the country had offered, leading scruffy militia down dirt roads in the pitch black.

We positioned on two ridges overlooking the valley on the south and west, examining below bundled against the bitter cold of the desert night. And we laid out our blanket of gunfire. A hail of bullets and rockets sprang out on an unsuspecting horde, a perfect kill box.

Climbing into the cauldron our team inspected the encampment. Fresh guns, ammo, boots, rupees. All signs pointing to Pakistani aid, we all expected as much. After weeks of fighting, totally cut off, it would be impossible for the Talibs if they didn’t get help. I’m an optimist but we were seriously up against it, with no air support authorized, not this close to the Pakistan border.

A sniper's shot rang out, it had hit L███████, we returned fire quickly and dropped him. I looked at him, it was bad, but he was going to be alright if he got a medevac, I called it in and told him to sit tight that the bird was coming.



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CNN News story, July 19th 2005
 
If I understanding correctly, Afghanistan would say bye bye to OTL dystopian situation?
I hope so but in the end, we are talking about Afghanistan and as the previous post stated the "Northern Alliance" is not a unitary group but is a mishmash of several heterogeneous militias and is not under the full control of the "central government"(technically it doesn't even exist). TTL Afghanistan still runs the risk of descending down the same path that OTL Afghanistan followed where the central government was nominally in charge over all of the country but where every local military commander or governor practically acted independently. However, if Massoud is able to stabilize the situation and reach an understanding with the Taliban it is likely that the situation could significantly improve for the time being but things could quickly deteriorate again after Massoud leaves the political scene.
 
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