Friday, December 7, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Kandahar crumbling
Mullah Omar agrees to surrender
K. J. M. Varma

Islamabad, December 6
Cornered Taliban today appeared to be losing their last stronghold with their supremo Mullah Mohammad Omar reportedly deciding to surrender the southern Afghan city of Kandahar to local Mujahideen even as ground and air attacks were under way in Tora Bora mountain range to flush out Osama bin Laden’s fighters.

“Mullah Mohammad Omar has decided that Kandahar should be handed over to former jehadi commander Mullah Naqibullah,” Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency quoted an unnamed Taliban spokesman as saying.

“A decision has also been taken to form a commission which would be headed by Mullah Naqibullah who will also act as Governor of Kandahar.

“Mullah Omar has taken the decision in consultation with tribal leaders and his associates and the ulema. The decision will be implemented in one or two days,” the spokesman said.

A spokesman of US-led coalition in Afghanistan said Mullah Omar may be trying to surrender to the country’s new interim leader Hamid Karzai whose forces are massed near Kandahar.

“I can tell you authoritatively that some of Mullah Omar’s most senior commanders are negotiating their own surrender,” Kenton Keith told reporters here.

“You should also take seriously reports that Mullah Omar himself is negotiating to save his own skin,” Keith said. Until now the militia supremo had ordered his troops to fight to death against opposition forces backed by the USA.

There was no independent confirmation of the AIP report, which said that the handover would be completed in a few days.

The agency, which is close to Taliban, did not say clearly whether if Omar surrendered would he be allowed safe passage from the city.

The report was also silent on the fate of those Taliban and Al-Qaida fighters who surrender.

The report of Mullah Omar’s decision to surrender came close on the heels of Karzai saying he had held “very productive” talks with a Taliban delegation.

Karzai said he had offered amnesty to Taliban fighters except Mullah Omar. Karzai, who took charge on December 22 for six months, said: “Foreign terrorists must be tried and expelled”.

In Washington, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said most leaders of Taliban and Al-Qaida militant group were alive and at large in Afghanistan despite the military campaign against them.

Ground and air strikes continued against fighters loyal to Bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network in the Tora Bora area of eastern Afghanistan. PTIBack


Ceasefire announced

Quetta (Pakistan), December 6
One of the Pashtun tribal forces fighting the Taliban near their last stronghold of Kandahar announced an immediate ceasefire today following talks on a peaceful handover of the city, a spokesman said.

"We have actually proclaimed a ceasefire today," Khalid Pashtoon, spokesman for a Pashtun tribal army led by former Kandahar Governor Gul Agha, told Reuters.

"Today we did not go forward to fight (because of the talks)," he said on the telephone.

Gul Agha’s fighters had been trying to dislodge Taliban forces entrenched in Kandahar airport to the south of the city, the birthplace and last bastion of the hardline militia. Reuters


Karzai's appointment setback for Pak
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune New Service

New Delhi, December 6
The appointment of Mr Hamid Karzai as head of Afghanistan’s interim government is a setback for Pakistan (and Iran) despite his links with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Mr Karzai owns three houses in Pakistan — one each in Peshawar, Lahore and Quetta — and has been in touch with the ISI for about two decades. In fact, it was under a strong recommendation of the ISI that he became Deputy Foreign Minister in Afghanistan in 1990-92, well-placed sources said here today.

But his honeymoon with the ISI ended in July, 1999, when his father, Mr Abdul Ahad Karzai, chief of the powerful Popalzai tribe in Kandahar, was assassinated by the Taliban. Mr Karzai naturally believed that the ISI, which had been the mentor of the Taliban, double-crossed his father.

However, the ISI is believed to have reopened its channel with Mr Karzai in the past couple of months courtesy the USA with which he has fantastic rapport. His five brothers and a sister are US greencard holders, though he himself is not.

Sources said Pakistan was feeling itself checkmated in the diplomatic game played in Bonn for the past one week where Mr Karzai was chosen to head the post-Taliban interim administration in Afghanistan because Islamabad had put all its eggs in one basket — former Afghanistan President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

The Pakistani gameplan, sources pointed out, was to salvage some bit of stakes in Afghanistan by getting Mr Rabbani chosen as head of the interim government. Mr Rabbani is a hardcore activist of the Jamaat-e-Islami and that is why the Pakistani strategists found him to be their best man in the current situation.

It is public knowledge that Mr Rabbani had met a Pakistani delegation in Dubai about a fortnight back for closed-door talks on the post-Taliban arrangement in Afghanistan. What very few people know is that the Pakistani delegation was crammed with ISI agents.

Mr Rabbani, incidentally, has had a close relationship with the ISI and is familiar with their working. ISI agents were his "handlers" during the early 1980s when he fought against the Soviets.Back

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