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Pentagon: Taleban Fighters Might Have Bought Freedom - 2001-12-17

A top Pentagon official says he suspects some captured Taleban and al-Qaida have negotiated their freedom from the Afghan opposition forces who captured them.

Not long ago, defense officials said they believed Afghan forces had taken a few thousand Taleban and al-Qaida fighters into custody.

Now, though, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem of the Pentagon's Joint Staff puts the overall number of prisoners held by Afghan groups in the hundreds. He suspects some may have bought their way to freedom. "This region, this country, you know, has a history built on bartering, and allegiances can be bought," he said. "And so we suspect that that has in fact been happening."

U.S. forces have so far only taken five non-Afghans into custody, including the so-called American Taleban, John Walker Lindh.

Admiral Stufflebeem says more are expected to be transferred from the custody of Afghan groups. In addition, he says Pakistan has detained a modest number of people who had fled Afghanistan.