Out of favour with his allies, the president is no longer on the Afghanistan A-list

By Patrick Healy in Kabul

The United Nations is not known for staging bloodless coups, but that seems the best explanation for the fact Burhanuddin Rabbani is about to become a former president of Afghanistan.

The nation's 61-year-old nominal leader is on the way out because he lost the confidence of the United Nations, the United States, and even his brothers in the Northern Alliance, who, in the end, sacrificed him in exchange for government ministries and billions of dollars in foreign aid.

According to interviews with UN, Western and Afghan diplomats and military officials, Mr Rabbani was judged to be erratic and self-serving, part of an old Afghan political culture in which alliances shift with the wind.

UN officials said that they decided weeks ago that Mr Rabbani's presence would hinder a new Afghan government.

So, Mr Rabbani, who led Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996 and kept his claim on the post even after fleeing Kabul under Taliban mortar fire, will not find his name on the list of leaders being drafted in Bonn.

"Rabbani is the old guard, and there really isn't a place for that in the new Afghanistan," said a UN political officer in Kabul.

In a classic display of hardball politics, the UN last month persuaded Mr Rabbani to send delegates to the Bonn talks to discuss a framework for a new government. In truth, officials said, the UN and the allies had decided that a government should be formed, without a role for Mr Rabbani.

Mr Rabbani declined to be interviewed, but an aide said in an interview that the UN had violated the spirit of its own charter by effectively sidelining him.

"The president will support a new government, but we all know what was done here," the aide said. "The international community, with its money, got its way."

Mr Rabbani's struggle for power has been an epic one, even by Afghanistan's standards. He has seized it from a Soviet puppet government, hoarded it when he refused to step down as planned in 1994, lost it to the Taliban, won it with the fall of Kabul last month, and he is now watching it being wrested away from him.

The Boston Globe