- A renedage army of 5,000 Taleban soldiers
with 450 tanks, armoured carriers and pick-up trucks is locked in a tense
stand-off with American special forces in Afghanistan.
- The troops fled Kandahar with their commander
and more than 100 senior Taleban figures in December after reneging on
a surrender agreement. They have regrouped among villages in the mountainous
region of Ghazni province, northwest of Kandahar.
- Amid growing concern that powerful pockets
of resistance loyal to Osama bin Laden remain in Afghanistan, an American
soldier was wounded in the foot and 15 Taleban and al-Qaeda guerrillas
were killed yesterday in a gunfight north of Kandahar.
- The clash, which occurred during a US
special forces "search and destroy mission, was triggered when Arab
fighters opened fire on the US patrol, US officials said. About 30 men
- The Americans said that most of the detainees
were Afghans and appeared to be Taleban, not al-Qaeda, fighters. Officials
described them as members of the leadership but would not comment on whether
the US had acted on intelligence that Mullah Muhammad Omar was hiding in
- In tough negotiations with American forces,
leaders of the renegade army in Ghazni are demanding millions of dollars
and the guarantee of an amnesty before they will give up their arms. "Extremely
delicate and tense negotiations are under way between representatives of
Gul Agha Sherzai, Kandahar,s new Governor, US special forces and the Taleban
commander in charge of the unit.
- "They disappeared the day that Kandahar
fell, a senior aide to Mr Sherzai said. "They took with them 450 tanks
and vehicles, rocket-propelled grenades, machine-guns and rifles. At present,
the Americans do not want to use force, as they are spread among the local
people. But there are real fears that if there is one incident of revolt
which takes place against the government (of Kandahar, we fear it will
have a snowball effect.
- In Kandahar,s football stadium yesterday
Mr Sherzai addressed 15,000 people after calling a Loya Jirga (National
Council). He pledged allegiance to Zahir Shah, the former Afghan King,
but renewed attacks on Iran and its growing infiltration with arms and
money. It was seen as the first test of Mr Sherzai,s popularity in post-Taleban
Kandahar. The stadium was, however, only three-quarters full, with 3,000
of the audience being schoolchildren.
- Afghan troops from Kandahar province
are on high alert for possible military action against the allegedly Iranian-backed
forces of Ismail Khan, the veteran warlord and Governor of the western
city of Herat. Tensions between Mr Sherzai and Mr Khan in Herat remain
extremely high and are causing grave concern to the Americans.
- The growing number of US troops in the
country " more than 3,000 are based at Kandahar airport and in Kabul
" are being drawn into provincial rivalries. While many in the country
welcome the stabilising influence of American troops in the short term,
a long-term deployment would be bitterly resented, particularly in the
Pashtun south, where Taleban sympathies are still strong.
- Mr Sherzai,s commanders, and US Intelligence,
have accused Iran of funnelling cash and arms to Mr Khan and his allies
to stir up opposition to the new interim administration of Hamid Karzai
in Kabul, and to the US presence in the region.
- Mr Khan is accused of persecuting Pashtuns
in Herat, with reports from refugees leaving the area of Pashtuns being
robbed of trucks, jailed and killed. Mr Khan and Tehran deny the allegations.
- In the north reports continue of fighting
between forces loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum " a man who switched
sides no less than six times during the Afghan civil war " and Mohammed
Daoud, two rival members of the Northern Alliance, over a remote district
near the Tajikistan border.
- The conflict has led two other warlords
who claim a role in the city " Commander Mohaqaq, a Hazari, and Commander
Uftad Ata, a Tajik, to arm refugees loyal to them. "The camps are
now punctuated by small-arms fire as rival groups, armed by the warlords,
battle each other for territory, Haneef Ata, of the International Rescue
- A UN security officer, who asked not
to be named, said that the same practice had spread to other cities. The
camps around the eastern city of Jalalabad contained large numbers of young
men being armed by warlords who were keen to fill the power vacuum outside
Kabul, the official said.
- Under the terms of the agreement establishing
the interim administration there was no provision for the deployment of
peacekeeping troops beyond 4,500 in Kabul.
- General Ghulam Nassery, Afghan minister
in charge of peacekeeping, said: "Unless the camps are disarmed, Afghanistan
could once again slide into civil war. I am ashamed to say, we need men
who are not Afghans. We need more than 100,000 of them.
- Copyright 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd.