Rebels Assault Kunduz; Talks in Doubt

But shortly thereafter the Northern Alliance's interior minister said that the talks being carried out in Mazar-e-Sharif had failed and that an offensive would now begin.

"We have tried to settle the issue of Kunduz through negotiation but we have been forced to chose a military solution," Yunus Qanuni told Reuters. "At the moment our forces are advancing. We hope by tomorrow we will have secured Kunduz."

The commander of the Taliban forces in Kunduz, Mullah Faizal, also told Reuters earlier today that the hard-line Islamic regime's troops would give themselves up — and he said that included the foreigners fighting alongside the Afghans.

"There will be peace," Faizal told a Reuters television correspondent who was one of several reporters allowed to enter the room where negotiations were being held with Northern Alliance commander Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Another Northern Alliance commander, Atta Mohammed, told The Associated Press by satellite telephone from Mazar-e-Sharif that the Taliban surrender came late this afternoon Afghanistan time in a meeting with top Taliban commanders.

"We told them, `You are safe. We can transfer you to your provinces,'" Mohammed said.

Mohammed's spokesman Ashraf Nadeem told The Associated Press that 5,000 Northern Alliance troops would be sent to the city to oversee the surrender and to take the foreigners into custody.

One of the points that reportedly has stalled the talks was the Taliban demand that they surrender only to U.N. forces, not to Dostum's troops, who consist mainly of members of Afghanistan's Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara minorities. Most of the Taliban soldiers are Pashtun, the ethnic majority in Afghanistan.

Shamsulhaq Orienfad, a Northern Alliance spokesman in Dushanbe, said that under the terms of the agreement, the Afghans fighting for the Taliban would be allowed to return home once they had turned over their arms. He added, however, that "the Arab, Pakistani and Chechen mercenaries will be put before a court."

The Northern Alliance launched another offensive today, trying to take the town of Maidan-Shahr, west of Kabul, where negotiations for a surrender of Taliban forces also failed, ABCNEWS has learned.

There are about 1,200 Taliban soldiers in the town, but Northern Alliance commanders said they believe they will capture the area by Friday.

Shaving Beards, Changing Clothes

Some of the refugees fleeing Kunduz on Wednesday told ABCNEWS' Don Dahler that Taliban soldiers are shaving their beards, throwing away any clothes that could identify them and fleeing the city.

Even though the Taliban hold only one other city, Kandahar, and four surrounding provinces in southern Afghanistan, the commander of the U.S. military operation dampened expectations for a quick, complete end to the war.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Franks said Wednesday.

Franks said he entered Afghanistan on Tuesday evening to meet with opposition leaders at Bagram air base outside Kabul. It was the first such trip inside Afghanistan by a senior U.S. military official. He said he would visit several Gulf nations in the coming days to discuss the war on terror.

The Taliban Speaks Out

Franks' statement of resolve echoed a similar statement of commitment from the spokesman of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...