November 24, 2001, Chandigarh, India
Final assault on Kunduz
Kabul, November 23
And in a sign of mounting pressure in the south, a Taliban official said their supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had fled his stronghold in the city of Kandahar for a more secure hideaway, leaving a deputy in his place.
“Mullah Omar has shifted to an unknown place for security reasons,” Mullah Sayed Mohammad Haqqani, a Taliban security official in charge at the border town of Spin Boldak near Pakistan, told Reuters.
On the northern front, the Alliance attacked from Khanabad, Pul-e-Bangi and Dasht-e-Archi areas, and US planes bombed targets in Kunduz.
Witnesses reported the echo of bombing resonating from around Kunduz, an ancient city astride strategic supply routes into Tajikistan, where some 15,000 Taliban and fighters loyal to Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden are pinned down.
Alliance troops launched the assault on Kunduz even though some senior commanders in the field still held out hopes of a successful outcome to on-off surrender talks.
“We have tried to settle the issue of Kunduz through negotiation but we have been forced to choose a military solution,” Northern Alliance Interior Minister Yunus Qanuni told Reuters in Kabul yesterday.
Kunduz could be a bloodbath if the surrender talks flounder or if thousands of Pakistani, Arab and Chechen fighters linked to Bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network fight to the death.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf expressed serious concern at a meeting in Islamabad about the fate of the Kunduz defenders.
“We all understand the potential humanitarian disaster that could be possible in Kunduz. Making those (surrender) arrangements...in the very confused circumstances could prove extremely difficult,” Straw told reporters after his talks. Reuters
ISI-Pak rift surfaces
New Delhi, November 23
A virtual war of words and allegations and counter-allegations have started within the Pakistani establishment, particularly between the ISI and the Foreign Office, with the focus on the role played by the ISI in Afghanistan since 1979 end.
The sources disclosed that the Pakistan Foreign Minister had asked President Pervez Musharraf that it was the right time to “bridle” the activities of the ISI. If this was not done immediately, Islamabad would be losing Afghanistan forever, Mr Sattar is understood to have told President Musharraf.
In view of the breathtaking developments in Afghanistan over the past 10 days, particularly since the taking over of Kabul by the Northern Alliance forces, Pakistan finds itself at the crossroads.
The ISI is finding itself pushed to the wall as it has no explanation for the most potent charge against it why it kept all its eggs in one basket, an obvious reference to the ISI pampering Taliban at the cost of the Northern Alliance without realising its possible fallout.
The sources said a feeling among the top political echelons of Pakistan was that the ISI had let down the country’s larger long-term interests by not keeping any links with the Northern Alliance.
Within the ISI, too, there has been criticism of senior ISI bosses who considered it a sin to have contacted an anti-Taliban Afghan.
By winning Kabul, the Northern Alliance has virtually plucked out the centre of gravity of Afghanistan and it is being considered in diplomatic circles only a matter of time before the Alliance forces control the entire Afghanistan, something which has never happened before.
The Musharraf regime is trying hard to salvage its losing diplomatic battle in Afghanistan and its order of closure of the Taliban’s last embassy in the world is being construed as a step in that direction.
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