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Nic Robertson: Taliban commander surrenders

SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (CNN) -- At least one Taliban commander is surrendering control of Spin Boldak, a strategically important town close to the Pakistani border, CNN has learned.

CNN's Nic Robertson is at the Chaman border crossing in Pakistan. He filed this report.

ROBERTSON: It's a developing situation here just across the border in Spin Boldak. We've been monitoring the situation the last few days; there have been rumors in talks between the Taliban and local tribal commanders that the Taliban would surrender their control of Spin Boldak to these tribal commanders.

Today, one Taliban commander crossed the border into Pakistan. He came to CNN and he told us that his soldiers -- 25 Taliban fighters under his command in Spin Boldak -- would not fight against these tribal commanders and he said therefore, he had to surrender his command to tribal commanders in Spin Boldak.

This is a developing situation. We do need to speak with other commanders in Spin Boldak. Twenty-five soldiers refusing to fight is significant. Does this mean that Spin Boldak is now under tribal command, or is it still under Taliban command?

This is something we need to ask more commanders of inside Spin Boldak. This is, as I say, a developing situation, but it is significant.

CNN: Have you heard if they're going to surrender, if they want to go home, leave the area, be turned over to the United Nations or what they're agreeing to?

ROBERTSON: At this stage, all we know is that these 25 Taliban fighters refuse to go into battle with the local tribal commanders against tribal forces here. It's not clear what kind of negotiations have been made. The Taliban have been telling us in the last few days that the demands put up by these tribal leaders have been too stiff, that there was too much of a gulf between the two parties and therefore there could be no negotiation.

They were in negotiations last night. Pakistani officials at the border here told us that in Spin Boldak there were negotiations last night. Perhaps this is the fruit of those negotiations, but it's still unclear. So we do not know exactly what will happen to those Taliban fighters other than at this stage they're very likely by now have surrendered their weapons.

CNN: Spin Boldak is how close to Kandahar? And are there fears that they could make it to Kandahar and fight from Kandahar?

ROBERTSON: That's exactly what these tribal commanders would like to do. They would like to find a negotiated solution for Kandahar with the Taliban. They want the Taliban to surrender the control of Kandahar to them.

That still hasn't happened, but Spin Boldak is one of only a couple of towns on a three-hour drive between here from the city of Kandahar, so it is significant. This is the main border town. So geographically a three-hours drive, but the implication of one of only a couple of towns on the main highway falling out of the Taliban's control is going to be very significant, not only from a military standpoint, but also for their morale.


• Afghan leaders look beyond Taliban
November 27, 2001

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