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Nic Robertson: Taliban surrender of Kandahar



(CNN) -- The Taliban will begin surrendering their last stronghold of Kandahar on Friday, the leader of the new interim Afghan government Hamid Karzai said Thursday. He also said that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, who is to turn over control of Kandahar to tribal leaders, must renounce terrorism.

CNN's Nic Robertson reports from Chaman, Afghanistan, on the border near Kandahar.

ROBERTSON: The surrender is supposed to begin Friday and as we stand here on the border of Afghanistan, Friday daylight begins in about nine hours time. So, very soon we could begin to see the implementation of that surrender.

We understand that the terms of the surrender have been in negotiation in the last few days. The negotiations have been between the Taliban ... and the head of Afghanistan's new interim government, Hamid Karzai. Now, Karzai has been heading a tribal military force that has been one of the forces circling the city of Kandahar over the last week or so. (Mullah Muhammad Omar is the leader of the Taliban, who is to turn over control of the city.)

All the details of the surrender -- the negotiation terms and what this means for the Taliban and what they expect in return -- were announced by the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan.

There are some key things to look at in the terms of that surrender. Number one -- the implications that the Taliban leaders can go free, can go home. Number two -- who is to take over Kandahar Mullah Naqibullah, a former mujahedeen commander.

Another detail that is very interesting is that the new head of Afghanistan's interim government, Hamid Karzai, who has been party to these negotiations, is not allowed to enter the city of Kandahar.

So, these are some very hard terms for observers in this region to accept. They're also looking to see what happens to what we are told are some 600 Arab fighters who are also said to be in and around Kandahar city. It is the terms of this surrender that are going to be keenly watched.

CNN: Can you tell us whether or not these negotiations were face-to-face, or is this being done by proxy, or what?

ROBERTSON: It's not clear. What we do know is that when we spoke with a senior military commander inside the city of Kandahar, he did confirm the talks were going on, but he wouldn't confirm to us whether or not Hamid Karzai sat down face-to-face with Mullah Omar. He was not prepared to discuss that.

Certainly, we have seen in other areas of Afghanistan, there has been a degree of retribution against the Taliban. We saw this when the Northern Alliance took control of Kabul.

Perhaps we won't see that kind of thing around Kandahar. The situation is still volatile, but one of the reasons we might not see that level of retribution is because the Taliban come from the same ethnic background, the Pashtun background, that make up 38 percent of the population of Afghanistan. So, there is a lot more empathy between the Taliban and a lot of these tribal fighters who will be moving in to take control of their territory.

Certainly, the new commander of Kandahar is a figure known to many of the tribal fighters and obviously, at this stage, he is trusted by the Taliban as well.

It would appear that the potential is there for a relatively smooth handover, but it's getting the information out to all those fighters in the field, letting them know that the men that come toward them from the tribes are now the people they should be surrendering to and not fighting with.

CNN: Considering the condition of that country's communications infrastructure, how long do you think it would take for this word to spread? It's got to be a difficult prospect.

ROBERTSON: Hamid Karzai said the surrender would take two to three days and certainly word should spread around Kandahar city and up and down the main highway very quickly. In those areas, word of mouth -- drivers traveling up and down the road -- will spread the word very quickly. It would be realistic to expect at least those who are willing to go along with the surrender to hand over in the next couple of days.

It will be the outlying areas in the villages and the deserts and toward the mountains Taliban hiding out there might not get the information very quickly.



 
 
 
 


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