Some Afghan Taleban fighters are reportedly surrendering to Northern Alliance troops around the Taleban stronghold of Kunduz while other Taleban soldiers vow to fight on. And a United Nations official is explaining a delay in attempts to create a new government for the country.
Northern Alliance troops ringing the city of Kunduz say 600 foreign Taleban fighters laid down their weapons and surrendered Saturday in a town west of the city. Another 200 Afghan Taleban fighters reportedly defected amid cheers and shouts of welcome from Northern Alliance troops.
The foreign fighters, mostly Pakistanis, Arabs and Chechens with ties to Osama Bin Laden's al - Qaida organization, are believed to have been taken to detention camps in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif to await trial. The 200 Afghan Taleban troops, who switched sides, immediately pledged to help the Northern Alliance retake Kunduz.
The reports cannot be independently verified. But even if the reports are true, a Northern Alliance victory in Kunduz is still far from certain. Thousands of other foreign volunteers still dug in behind the front lines, are set to be ready to fight to the death.
In recent weeks U.S. war planes have been pounding Taleban positions on the outskirts of the city, as Northern Alliance and Taleban commanders search for a peaceful end to the siege. According to reports out of Kunduz, many of the foreigners are refusing to give up fearing retribution at the hands of Northern Alliance troops.
Meanwhile, the United Nations says the conference to discuss the make up of the future government in Afghanistan will begin on Tuesday in Bonn, Germany, one day later than it had been scheduled. U.N. spokesman Eric Falt said logistical constraints have forced the delay of the conference aimed at organizing a broad based multi-ethnic government "There are, as you can imagine, delegates coming from all over the world, including from Afghanistan, of course, and therefore we simply want to allow enough time for all of them to arrive," he said.
The United States and its allies have been urging the United Nations to move rapidly to fill the political vacuum following five years of Taleban rule and the seizure of Kabul by the Northern Alliance.