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Key Player In Northern Afghanistan Supports Negotiations With Taliban

Gov. Atta Mohammad Noor, in his office in Afghanistan's  Balkh province. He once led Northern Alliance fighters against the Taliban. Today, he's a successful politician. Despite his past, he's willing to support negotiations with the Taliban. Jim Wildman/NPR hide caption

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Jim Wildman/NPR

NPR's Renee Montagne is reporting from northern Afghanistan, a region where Taliban influence creeps farther and farther into communities that had previously been safe.

One of the region's strongmen — Atta Mohammad Noor — is governor of Balkh province. He's a hero to his people after guiding Northern Alliance militias against the Taliban and re-taking the capital city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Still he supports the Karzai government's effort to negotiate with the Taliban to end the country's latest war.

"If the Taliban want a real and sustainable peace in the country and respect our constitution and accept our government, which is every Afghan’s desire, we would welcome such a move," he tells Montagne for a piece today on Morning Edition.

"But if they are planning to endanger our achievements of the last nine years and terrorize and massacre our people there is no doubt that people will not accept them," he adds.

If there's another war with the Taliban, Atta told Montagne, he is worried that his people are "disarmed."

He added: "We defeated the Russians and we fought the Taliban and al-Qaida. We still love our country and its people. If things get worse and go to far we will be ready to defend our people and rescue our country. The only problem we have is that our hands are empty. If the people who disarmed us rearm us we, the people, are ready to defend our country against who ever who tries to endanger our values."