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Taliban Troops Ignore Calls for Peaceful Surrender - 2001-12-09

Afghan Northern Alliance military commanders say they have moved some of their troops South from Kabul to begin collecting weapons from Taleban fighters in a key city on the road from Kabul to Khandahar. The alliance is encountering stiff resistance among Taleban troops scattered south of Ghanzi.

Almost as soon as Taleban forces began abandoning their last stronghold two days ago in southern Khandahar, Northern Alliance commanders in charge of securing areas south of Kabul began negotiating with their Taleban counterparts for a peaceful surrender.

Alliance commanders say the talks have been successful down to Ghanzi city, an area stretching 150 kilometers south from Kabul. Military officials say alliance troops have already begun disarming Taleban fighters there. They say they expect to secure the city and the surrounding area in the next several days.

But Taleban commanders south of Ghanzi have ignored Northern Alliance calls to lay down their weapons. Alliance leaders say many of the Taleban troops from there to Khandahar are ethnic Pashtuns who refuse to surrender to the Tajik-, Uzbek- and Hazara-dominated Northern Alliance. The Pashtun Taleban say they will launch attacks against all alliance forces sent to capture and disarm them.

In Kabul, Northern Alliance commander Ghosdeen Amidi says time is running out for a negotiated surrender. He says the Northern Alliance has given the Taleban fighters one more day to turn in their weapons. If they do not, Mr. Amidi says his troops will take the guns by force.

Taleban rule in Afghanistan effectively ended Friday when Khandahar, the group's spiritual base, fell to anti-Taleban Pashtun militia forces. Taleban defenders fleeing the city took their weapons with them, despite pledging Thursday to disarm as part of a surrender deal. Since early November, the Taleban has lost 95 percent of Afghanistan.

The Northern Alliance and anti-Taleban Pashtun leaders have subsequently agreed to set up an interim government in Kabul. It is meant to be the first step toward a permanent broad-based government.