- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday warned the Afghan opposition forces that their ties to the United States would "go south" if they defied the administration's demand that Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Kandahar not be allowed to go free.
The message has been sent to the opposition forces, which are set to take over Kandahar in the next several days after the announced surrender of the Taliban yesterday, he said.
"Our cooperation and assistance with those people would clearly take a turn south if something were to be done with respect to the senior people in that situation that was inconsistent with what I've said," Mr. Rumsfeld added.
In particular, Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States has told the opposition leaders "very forcefully" that Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist leaders should not be allowed to leave the country or go free. Reports from Afghanistan have indicated that the new coalition government may be willing to allow Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to live "in dignity" in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Marines based south of Kandahar fired mortars and flares into the night sky yesterday in response to what a spokesman called a "credible threat" of attack by enemy forces.
The activity at what the Marines call Camp Rhino forced them to take up defensive positions around the base where about 1,000 Marines are stationed.
"We don't know that anything is going on," said Capt. Stewart Upton, a Marine spokesman. "It could be possible probing by the enemy."
A U.S. Marine helicopter crashed near the airstrip, slightly wounding a Marine on board and one on the ground, but a spokesman said it was not believed to have been brought down by enemy forces.
U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Times that Taliban fighters were planning car-bomb attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan using vehicles loaded with explosives.
The announced surrender did not end fighting around Kandahar. Opposition forces battled Taliban fighters just north of the city.
However, supporting U.S. air strikes in the area appeared to stop yesterday, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. B-52 bombers blasted areas of northeastern Afghanistan as part of efforts by anti-Taliban forces, along with U.S. commandos, to hunt down Osama bin Laden, the terrorist blamed for the September 11 attacks.
The United States has helped the opposition forces oust the Taliban from power during the past two months of the conflict, and President Bush is promising to provide financial assistance to the country in exchange for supporting U.S. efforts to stop al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban supporters in Afghanistan, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
The small numbers of U.S. forces in Afghanistan are insufficient to control the country, and thus dealing with surrendering Taliban or terrorist fighters would have to be done indirectly by working with the opposition forces, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Captured forces will be screened and interrogated, and it is likely that some low-level fighters will try to hide in the population or in the mountains, he said.
Foreign terrorists who are wanted by authorities abroad might be turned over to those nations' governments, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
After briefing members of the Senate, Mr. Rumsfeld was asked by a reporter whether the United States would demand U.S. justice or would agree to let an international tribunal deal with Mullah Omar.
"We would prefer to have Omar," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Even if Kandahar falls, the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan will continue, focusing on the mountainous east where bin Laden and several thousand al Qaeda fighters are believed to be located, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
He also noted that there are still "pockets of resistance" to be extinguished elsewhere.

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