- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 8, 2001

QUETTA, Pakistan Afghans overjoyed about the end of Taliban rule in the dictatorial regime's birthplace and final stronghold poured into the streets of Kandahar yesterday, carrying pictures of Afghanistan's deposed king. Others tore down the Taliban's white flag and replaced it with the royal red, black and green standard.
"People are happy. But they're not ready to celebrate yet," said Abdul Khaliq, a former anti-Soviet commander who helped broker yesterday's surrender.
Yesterday's events marked the end of the Afghan rule by the Taliban, a group of fanatical Islamists under Mullah Mohammed Omar's leadership who first seized power seven years ago in Spin Boldak and in Kandahar a few days later.
Kandahar residents, who spoke to reporters in Kabul and Quetta by telephone, described a calm transfer of power. But there were also reports of sporadic gunfire between the two rival anti-Taliban groups that took command of the city.
However shaky the handover, a successful transfer of power would bolster the credentials of Afghanistan's newly appointed leader, Hamid Karzai, who stayed outside the gates of Kandahar yesterday after negotiating the surrender Thursday with Taliban leaders.
"I hope it will take no more than two or three days," said Mr. Karzai, chosen this week at a U.N.-sponsored conference as de facto prime minister of a 29-member Cabinet that is slated to take power in Kabul in just over two weeks.
The deal negotiated by Mr. Karzai offered amnesty to Mullah Omar if he renounced terrorism. But yesterday's deadline for the statement passed and the black-bearded and reclusive mullah was nowhere to be found.
"I asked clearly that Mullah Omar renounce terrorism," Mr. Karzai told the British Broadcasting Corp. by satellite phone. "Since he has not renounced terrorism if there's a case against him, as any other man, he must face trial and justice."
Mullah Omar's location remained unknown yesterday, as it has since the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Karzai also declared war on the thousands of fighters from the Arab world and elsewhere who were drawn to terrorist Osama bin Laden's guerrilla camps by his message of hatred toward the West.
"They are criminals; they have committed unbelievably inhuman crimes. They must face justice. They will not be let go," he said.
Reports varied on whether the Taliban fighters turned in their assault rifles and rocket launchers, as required by the agreement.
The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported that Taliban foot soldiers handed over their guns to a committee composed of tribal chiefs, elders, clerics and military commanders.
Other reports said that in some places Taliban fighters refused to turn in their weapons. Instead of surrendering Kandahar directly to Mr. Karzai, the Taliban turned control over to Mullah Naqeebullah, a former commander against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s who lives in Kandahar but was not part of the Taliban government.
That made a second opposition commander, Gul Agha, furious after he had fought for control of Kandahar airport with an army of 2,000 for much of the past week.
Mr. Agha, the former governor of Kandahar province, moved into the governor's mansion and declared himself governor again. Mullah Naqeebullah took control of army headquarters.
Somewhere along the way, fighters belonging to each leader started firing shots at each other.
Khalid Pashtun, an ally of Mr. Agha's, told Britain's Channel 4 News that Mullah Naqeebullah was holding Mullah Omar "in a friendly environment." Other reports suggest he has fled Kandahar.
Different tribal armies controlled pieces of Kandahar, Spin Boldak and the road in between, prompting commanders to begin meeting.
"They will come together. They will make a shura [tribal council]. It will take three or four days to work things out, said Mr. Khaliq,
The tribes of southern Afghanistan are primarily Pashtun, and if leaders succeed in forming a unified front, it would go a long way toward forming a grand alliance with Pashtun tribes in the east to counter the dominance of the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance in the transitional government.
Although Mr. Karzai, a Pashtun, leads the government, 17 of 29 ministers, including the top three posts, belong to the Northern Alliance, composed of ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras.
Feuds also buffet the alliance, with Uzbek Gen. Rashid Dostum threatening to bolt from the new government because he believes his ethnic group is underrepresented.

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