US Will Continue Bombing Despite
Taliban Kandahar Surrender
By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The U.S.-led coalition will pursue military action in Afghanistan despite the fall of the Taliban's last bastion of Kandahar, a spokesman said on Friday.
"I think we haven't achieved our goals yet and the (military) campaign will continue until we do so," coalition spokesman Kenton Keith said at a news briefing in Islamabad.
"I welcome the fall of Kandahar and the other areas the Taliban have agreed to surrender," he said.
Taliban fighters relinquished control of Kandahar on Friday to local forces under a deal negotiated by Hamid Karzai, the designated leader of a new interim Afghan government.
But the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had vanished from the southern city he has ruled since his fundamentalist militia burst onto the scene in 1994.
"After the (surrender) agreement with tribal leaders and commanders, Taliban leader Mullah Omar has disappeared from Kandahar and it is not known where he has gone," AIP quoted Haji Bashar, a former Mujahideen commander, as saying.
"Mullah Omar is not in Kandahar and the national shura (council) does not know where he is. He has gone to some undisclosed place," Haji Bashar said from the city.
Keith said the coalition was unaware if a transfer of power in Kandahar had been completed. Even if it had, he said, military strikes would go on until the coalition had achieved its goals of dismantling the Taliban and the al Qaeda network of Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, and bringing their leaders to justice.
"Osama bin Laden is still on the loose as well as senior al Qaeda officials and for that matter...the Taliban still exist in some areas in a combative status," he said. "They are holding out in pockets of resistance in various parts of the country."
Keith said a "pacification process" would be needed even when the Taliban had ceased to exist as an organized force.
The U.S.-led coalition has battered the Taliban with air strikes since October 7 to punish it for sheltering bin Laden and his followers, who are Washington's prime suspects for the devastating September 11 attacks on the United States.
AIP quoted Haji Bashar as saying the Taliban "completely laid down arms in Kandahar" without any resistance.
"Everything was done peacefully (and) Kandahar city is peaceful and quiet," he was quoted as saying.
There was no independent confirmation and some reports spoke of looting and insecurity as the city changed hands.

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