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Robertson: Taliban calling shots in Spin Boldak

CNN's Nic Robertson
CNN's Nic Robertson  

SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A close associate of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is now officially siding with ethnic Pashtun tribesmen who have been fighting the Taliban for control of Kandahar, a source inside the southern city told CNN Monday.

The development is a sign that tribal loyalties are overshadowing allegiance to the Taliban in the regime's southern stronghold.

CNN's Nic Robertson is one of the few journalists allowed into Taliban-controlled territory in the southern region of Afghanistan. He filed this report via videophone from Spin Boldak.

ROBERTSON: I'm just across the border inside Afghanistan and this is as far as the Taliban have allowed us to come so far today. They say that perhaps they won't allow us to go as far as Kandahar. That does raise the question of who controls Kandahar at this time, but it's in Spin Boldak that the Taliban still seem to be in control. They still run the passport office. There are a lot of Taliban soldiers around in the Spin Boldak area.

Also, there are large refugee camps -- refugees who haven't been able to get out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan. We have seen several thousand in camps there.

We talked to some of those refugees, asked them why they tried to get into Pakistan. They told us they'd come to escape the bombing and, at this time, they're still very uncertain about the future. And that was why they were staying here in the camps close to the border.

But certainly as far as Spin Boldak is concerned, it does still seem to be controlled by the Taliban. However, the Taliban seem to be less organized as they have in the past -- that's certainly the atmosphere we've walked into here. Certainly none of the senior officials are around in Spin Boldak -- the police chief is not there, the passport officials are not there. So, it's a situation of some confusion. But we do see that the Taliban are still in control in this border town.

CNN: Is there any talk about what those Taliban troops and representatives of the town have been told by Taliban leader Mullah Omar? What directions and orders have they been given?

ROBERTSON: They tell us they are still at this time talking with Mullah Omar's first secretary. He was in control the last time the Taliban allowed press into the country, and he is in control this time.

So certainly, the officials that have given us information here are indicating to us that Mullah Omar still does have some power and that his officials inside or close to Kandahar are still able to give people in this town instructions and those instructions are still carried out. So it seems a chain of command is still in place. But certainly we're not allowed to go to Kandahar, so we're not allowed to gauge what the mood of the people is there or whether or not the city is firmly in control of the Taliban.


• Afghan refugees fleeing Konduz
November 19, 2001

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