Q: Why did the Northern Alliance enter Kabul after the United States asked it not to?
A: Alliance troops had planned to stop at the capital's edge, the group's foreign minister said, but was obliged to enter because unruly elements were causing trouble. The alliance has deployed 3,000 security troops around the city to ensure order and guard international aid organizations.
Q: Why didn't the United States want the alliance to capture the capital?
A: The United States feared the Northern Alliance's presence in Kabul would complicate efforts to create a post-Taliban government. The alliance is made up of hardened military commanders from different ethnic groups, particularly Tajiks and Uzbeks, with a history of putting their own agendas above the country's interests. The United States and its allies insist that Pashtuns, the country's largest ethnic group and the backbone of the Taliban, must be included in any coalition government.
Q: How would this coalition government be formed?
A: The United Nations called Tuesday for a two-year transitional government for Afghanistan backed by a multinational security force. A meeting is expected to take place in the United Arab Emirates within the next week, but no date has been set.
Q: Would the United Nations pick the government?
A: The initial goal would be to convene a provisional council that reflects the country's ethnic diversity. It should be led "by an individual recognized as a symbol of national unity," an apparent reference to Afghanistan's exiled king. The council would put together the two-year transitional government. At the same time, a council of prominent Afghans would approve security arrangements and draw up a constitution. A second council would approve it and create a permanent Afghan government.
Q: Who is the king of Afghanistan?
A: King Mohammad Zaher Shah, 87, has lived in exile in Rome since he was ousted in 1973. He is seen as a potential unifying figure, with a measure of respect from the country's diverse ethnic groups.
Q: Will the Northen Alliance buy into a coalition government?
A: The alliance insists it is committed to a broad-based government. The foreign minister invited all Afghan factions _ except the Taliban _ to come to Kabul to negotiate on the country's future. He also invited the United Nations to send teams to "help us in the peace process."
Q: Will the United Nations send a peacekeeping force to Afghanistan?
A: The U.N. envoy ruled out such a force, which he said would take several months to put together. He said his first preference would be an all-Afghan security force, but said a multinational security force could probably be assembled more quickly.
Q: Who could be in this multinational force?
A: Pakistan's president called for a peacekeeping mission made up of Muslim nations to deploy in Kabul and said Turkey and Pakistan could contribute. The United States suggested that peacekeepers from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Jordan, among others, also could be deployed. Americans will not take part.
Q: What does all this mean for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida?
A: Apprehending him should get easier now. Reports from Afghanistan indicate that many former Taliban troops are joining the ranks of the Northern Alliance. "Our intelligence factor has gone up tremendously," said Thomas Gouttierre of the University of Nebraska's Center for Afghanistan Studies. "There's no question that we are going to be able to tighten the noose more tightly."
Q: Where is bin Laden now?
A: Gouttierre said it's likely bin Laden will hunker down in a 100-mile-by-100-mile area north of the city of Kandahar that is thought to house al-Qaida's network of caves and underground bunkers.
Q: Will U.S. ground forces be needed to get him?
A: There is no true opposition force in southern Afghanistan. U.S military planners think the best course is to approach Pashtun leaders who are unhappy with the Taliban and persuade them to defect. Without defections, the Pentagon might have to put more of its own troops on the ground to do more of the fighting, analysts said.
Q: Any chance of defections in the south?
A: Hamid Karzai, a former Afghan foreign minister and member of a powerful Pashtun family, has been reported in the Kandahar area for several days trying to spark a Pashtun insurrection against the Taliban.
_ Compiled by Ron Brackett with information from Associated Press, Knight Ridder, Cox News Service and Hearst Newspapers.