Taliban to stop fighting in Konduz
MAZAR-E SHARIF, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The Taliban has agreed to stop fighting in Konduz -- the last city still under their control in northern Afghanistan -- after hours of talks with Northern Alliance commander Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Konduz has been the source of heavy fighting in recent days and many pro-Taliban fighters there pledged to fight until their death. The United States had intensified its air campaign in the region in recent weeks, although the bombing eased over the past 24 hours.
During Wednesday's meeting, Taliban Gen. Mullah Faizel, the assistant minister of defense, said all the Taliban fighters in Konduz -- including the hard-line "foreign fighters," believed to be al Qaeda operatives from Chechnya, Pakistan and other Arab nations -- will no longer fight for the city.
"We can give this message to the people that fighting will not happen there," Faizel said.
In an exchange between Dostum and Faizel with journalists looking on, Dostum, speaking in the local Farsi language, said, "We should make sure to tell the journalists that fighting in Konduz will not happen, and that you represent all the Taliban in Konduz -- including the Arabs, the Chechens, the Uzbeks, and the Pakistanis."
He then turned to Faizel, "Will they accept your word?"
"Yes, they will accept my word," Faizel replied.
Dostum added, "... the problem of Konduz will be solved and nobody will fight there."
Further details -- such as how the city might be handed over and what would become of any potential prisoners of war -- are still being negotiated. The meeting is expected to continue throughout the night.
CNN correspondent Alessio Vinci, who was allowed into the session, said there were no representatives from the United States or United Nations in the meeting room.
Other talks under way
Dostum also said he is negotiating about other Taliban-controlled areas in Afghanistan, including the southern stronghold of Kandahar, the Taliban's religious headquarters. He did not specify what officials he has contacted.
Before the meeting began, Northern Alliance commanders told CNN that Taliban fighters would be allowed a chance to switch sides -- a common practice here -- but there will be no deal or amnesty for the so-called "foreign fighters." If those fighters give themselves up, the Northern Alliance commanders were adamant that they would put them on trial in Afghanistan and not let them return to their own countries.
The United States has said it doesn't want any of the Taliban's international volunteers or suspected terrorists to be allowed to return to their home countries.
The Pentagon said earlier Wednesday that Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, met with Dostum near Mazar-e Sharif and with Gen. Mohammed Fahim at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.
"He has explained to them our needs and received from them their needs," said Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Among other things, he has emphasized the fact that if there are any prisoners they be humanely treated."
For more than a week, the Northern Alliance has claimed that al Qaeda fighters and the hard-core "foreign fighter" group in Konduz have been killing local Taliban fighters who want to defect or surrender to the Northern Alliance.
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