Treason against the Taleban led to certain execution, as many discovered. But a top spy managed to avoid that fate, largely because he was in charge of Afghan security. He had every appearance of being a dedicated Taleban.

Haji Mullah Khaksar, deputy interior minister of security for the Taleban, looked the part. Powerfully built with a steady gaze and a restless energy, he said he was dedicated to preserving peace and stability in Afghanistan.

"Right now," he said, "there is no security problem inside Afghanistan. But our security forces are not up to international standards. We do not have proper equipment because so much was destroyed in the years of war. Despite this, we have been able to bring security to the country. The Taleban are trusted and dedicated to the welfare of the people."

But there was a serious security problem - namely himself. For four years, he supplied information to the Northern Alliance. He said he turned against the Taleban because of Osama bin Laden's increasing influence.

The terrorist was in the habit of handing out cash to Mullah Omar and others. The country had been bought, and at not a very high price.

Mr. Khaksar told Mullah Omar, once a close friend, to get rid of the terrorists before they destroyed the country.

During an interview, while still a top Taleban minister, he defended the execution, the day before, of two enemy agents. They had confessed to involvement in bombings in Kabul, he said, and were duly hanged before a jeering crowd in the city amphitheater.

Mr. Khaksar said, "All those behind the terrorist activities have been arrested for taking money in the service of foreigners to create unrest in Afghanistan."

Deputy Minister Khaksar was somewhat distracted because his son had just undergone an operation. But he was relaxed and hospitable, as indeed were other Taleban ministers outside the department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Offering tea and fruit and many pleasantries, Mr. Khaksar explained why he had become a Taleban leader. "It is not question of whether I like my job or not," he said. "I am working in the service of my nation. I am always involved with the criminals of my country. It is a challenge and a danger, but I do not mind the challenge or the danger. My main purpose is to serve my people."

And in his mind, that is what he did.

At present, he is helping U.S. forces track down other Taleban ministers, his former colleagues, who have gone into hiding.