Afghan Alliance Says Bin Laden Still with Taliban
Monday November 26 4:40 AM ET
By Michael Steen
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Northern Alliance said Monday it believed Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden were in or near the southern city of Kandahar.
Northern Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah also said he would send commanders but no troops to fight Taliban forces in their southern stronghold of Kandahar, as speculation mounted that Washington might make a decisive strike.
``(The U.S. deployment) is part of the campaign against terror. I am of course not aware of the details of what is happening there,'' Abdullah told a news conference. ``I knew it was going to happen, not long before, but perhaps a few hours.''
``I think Osama and his forces are contained, they are not free to operate throughout the country. This might have been the factor that made them (the U.S. troops) move,'' he said.
``It's my information that (Omar and bin Laden) are both together.''
Abdullah said local tribesmen were fighting the Taliban around Kandahar.
``Local forces ... are resisting Taliban forces around Kandahar,'' he said.
``There is no such idea as sending troops from here to Kandahar. This is not on the table, but some of our commanders are already being sent to the area to help mobilize the people against the Taliban,'' he said.
The arrival of significant numbers of U.S. troops in an area not controlled by the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance marks a new phase in Washington's military campaign in Afghanistan, aimed at finding bin Laden who is accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
It comes just a day before non-Taliban groups are due to meet in Bonn for talks on setting up a broad-based government in the multi-ethnic country which has been ravaged by two decades of war.
Abdullah said the Bonn talks were important, but played down the chance of much concrete progress.
``Expectations should not be too high. We are in transition from war to peace, a war which lasted 23 years,'' he said. ``It cannot be done in two or three days.''
The Alliance has made sweeping gains in Afghanistan over the past two weeks, breaking out from its northern redoubt to take the capital Kabul and most of the north of the country.
Abdullah said the alliance now controlled the city of Kunduz, where Taliban troops had been holding out, but there were still ``pockets of resistance'' to the west of the city.
``In one area there are 2,000 Taliban including foreigners who have surrendered to the joint commission,'' he said. ``They left behind their tanks and heavy armor and surrendered their weapons,'' he said.
Although Kabul is peaceful, the Northern Alliance's control over the countryside and other cities is more tenuous. Abdullah said a riot by prisoners of war in the northern city of Mazar- i-Sharif Sunday had been a ``security failure'' by Alliance troops.
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