Taliban Agrees to Surrender Kandahar

ByABC News
December 6, 2001, 9:49 PM

Dec. 6 -- Afghanistan's newly appointed interim leader today confirmed that the Taliban had agreed to surrender Kandahar, the hard-line Islamic regime's last stronghold.

In a broadcast interview today, Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai said the surrender of Kandahar would begin on Friday and could take up to two days.

A day after he was nominated head of Afghanistan's transitional administration, Karzai said he had offered amnesty to Afghan Taliban fighters but he said no such amnesty applied to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar until the reclusive leader provided clear proof of his intention to "distance himself from terrorism."

Karzai also said non-Afghan soldiers fighting for the Taliban would not receive an amnesty. While Karzai did not personally guarantee a safe passage for foreign Taliban fighters, he insisted that non-Afghan fighters "must leave my country."

Karzai said he did not know the whereabouts of Omar orOsama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Outside Kandahar today, there were signs of progress for anti-Taliban forces. ABCNEWS was told by a spokesman for Pashtun commander Gul Agha that Afghan tribesmen loyal to him had have taken control of Kandahar airport.

Earlier today, Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, told the Associated Press Taliban leaders had decided to hand over their weapons to Mullah Naqib Ullah, a Pashtun mujahideen leader who briefly controlled the capital of Kabul before the Taliban came into power.

Speaking to reporters in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad today, Zaeef said Afghan tribal leaders had agreed to provide Omar protection so that the reclusive one-eyed Taliban leader would be able to "live in dignity" in Afghanistan.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today said the United States would not stand for any deal thatallowed Omar to remain free.

Corroborating Rumsfeld's statement, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer today said President Bush"believes very strongly that those who harbor terrorists needto be brought to justice."

Although the Pentagon has confirmed that talks about the surrender of Kandahar were underway, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon would not confirm if Omar was holding talks with Afghan tribal leaders.