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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Afghans Fear Arab Militants

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- In the bleak capital of Afghanistan, Arabs drive the dusty, rocket-rutted streets hidden inside cars with blackened windows. Jittery residents cross the street and keep their eyes lowered when an Arab walks by.

The Americans aren't the only ones who would like to see Osama bin Laden and his thousands of militant Arab followers leave Afghanistan. So would many Afghans.

Relatively few Afghans are willing to talk about the Arab militants, and none -- even Taliban officials -- would agreed to be quoted by name. However, the suppressed antipathy between Afghans and the militants -- most but not all of whom are Arabs -- is palpable.

Many Afghans go out of their way to avoid contact with the Arabs, whom they consider hostile and overbearing.

The Taliban recently ordered foreigners to leave Afghanistan, but the order was enforced only for Westerners. The Taliban said that was because the safety of Westerners cannot be guaranteed if a U.S.-led international force launches an assault on Afghanistan.

Several Kabul residents -- some Taliban officials -- said the threat to Westerners isn't from Afghans or even Taliban troops. They said the real danger comes from the Arab "guests," as followers of bin Laden's al-Qaida movement are known. According to Western military estimates, there are as many as 10,000 Islamic militants in Afghanistan, more than half from Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan and Egypt. The rest come from Pakistan, Chechnya and Uzbekistan.

Despite public resentment, Arabs enjoy the support of Taliban leaders, in part because the Taliban needs the militants to help fight opposition forces in the north.

The influence of Arabs, particularly the Saudis and their predominantly Wahabbist sect, was evident in March when the Taliban blew up the stone statues of Buddha, hewn from the cliffside of Bamiyan in the third and fifth centuries.

One senior Taliban official said his idea is to rebuild Afghanistan, but the idea of the Arabs is to destroy it, and he believes the Afghan people will eventually rise up against them.