Robertson: $25 million reward
(CNN) -- The Taliban have approached the United Nations to negotiate a surrender of Konduz, but the world agency does not have the means to do so, a top U.N. envoy said Tuesday.
Meantime, in Kandahar the situation is still uncertain. CNN's Nic Robertson is in Spin Boldak near the southern stronghold of the Taliban. He filed this report.
ROBERTSON: We have talked to people here. We have talked to truck drivers that come from Kandahar. They say as far as they see, the situation in Kandahar appears to be normal. And certainly that is what Taliban officials here are telling us.
We also talked to people here about the $25 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Osama bin Laden. Interestingly, the people here say they hadn't heard about this reward. We talked to the truck drivers. They believe that because the sum is so substantial, perhaps this could lead somebody to giving away information on Osama bin Laden. But we also asked a military commander whose troops might be more likely to have information where Osama bin Laden is, and he just laughed at the idea that perhaps some Taliban soldiers would be turning in Osama bin Laden.
But certainly, as the area controlled by the Taliban shrinks and as Osama bin Laden is expected within the Taliban territory, the number of places he can hide is increasingly diminished. The Taliban territory in the south of Afghanistan is less mountainous than in the north. There are a lot of desert areas. Many of the communities where he could choose to hide are very close, tight-knit communities, and it could be very difficult for him to hide out in those communities, difficult for him to keep a lid on those communities and stop just one person from a particular village giving away his location and leading to his arrest. So perhaps it's becoming a little more difficult for Osama bin Laden at this time.
CNN: With the standoff between the Taliban leadership inside Kandahar and other Pashtun leaders outside, what is the situation for civilians, for people who are not involved in the fighting?
ROBERTSON: Again, it's very difficult to judge, because the Taliban at this stage won't allow us to leave Spin Boldak. They won't allow us to go to Kandahar. So we can only judge the reports that we have from the people who travel here. But interestingly, there are lot of refugees arriving in Spin Boldak, coming from the Kandahar area. They say they are leaving the area because of the bombing, but perhaps they also fear some wider instability. About 600 refugees turned up here in Spin Boldak this afternoon. There are about three or four large camps here, perhaps as many as 5,000 refugees housed in Spin Boldak.
But the situation where they have come from in Kandahar is still very, very difficult to judge. The Taliban say they control it, and they also say that if these Pashtun tribes try to take the Taliban on militarily, Taliban officials say they fought with these Pashtun tribes before and that they believe they can defeat them.
But for the refugees coming here to Spin Boldak, they cannot cross into Pakistan, and the situation in the camps -- although we understand there's enough food, water -- is a very, very big problem in these desert camps. These camps are essentially in the desert, on the edge of Spin Boldak, and the Taliban are drilling wells for water. But the water is very, very low, below the surface here. There has been a drought for almost four years now.
CNN: If this standoff remains, how long is it believed that the Taliban could hold on inside Kandahar?
ROBERTSON: Again, that's very, very difficult to guess at this stage. In areas where they don't have a good ethnic base, we have seen their collapse very quickly -- surprisingly quickly, in Kabul. Many analyst thought that perhaps the Taliban would try to keep hold of Kabul. Kandahar really is their stronghold.
In fact, Spin Boldak is, in fact, where the Taliban came from originally in 1994. Thirty-two Taliban members took part in what at that time was considered to be a daring raid against Pashtun tribes in this area, freeing a business convoy of Pakistani trucks trying to cross through Afghanistan. And so this area is really the heart of the Taliban -- they have to be forced very hard militarily to give up this territory. But we have seen them cede territory surprisingly quickly.
It is really anybody's guess what they will do.
Taliban ask U.N. to oversee Konduz surrender
November 20, 2001
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