Archive for Sunday, February 10, 2002

Taliban still pose threat

February 10, 2002

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— The interim Afghan administration warned Saturday that Taliban leaders are regrouping and could still destabilize the new, U.S.-imposed order here despite the surrender of the former Taliban foreign minister and his detention by U.S. troops.

Abdullah, foreign minister in the interim administration, said pockets of Taliban fighters remaining in the country and two new political organizations formed outside the country threaten to undermine Afghanistan's transition. His admonition came a day after the movement's former foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, surrendered to the new Afghan authorities in Kandahar and was turned over to U.S. forces.

Although Muttawakil was a key figure in the Taliban hierarchy headed by Mohammad Omar, there were signs that he had begun to break from the movement's hard-line orthodoxy before its collapse. U.S. and Afghan officials hope Muttawakil will provide clues to the whereabouts of Omar and his ally, Osama bin Laden, as forces from both countries hunt down the leadership of the Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Only a handful of significant figures from those groups have been captured or killed. Most  including Omar and bin Laden, the main objective in the war launched by the Bush administration on Oct. 7  have eluded pursuers.

A senior Afghan intelligence official said that his agents spotted an important Taliban leader last week near the Pakistani border and that U.S. forces have been informed. Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the finance minister and governor of the eastern province of Nangahar under the Taliban, was reportedly seen meeting with followers in a mosque in a village near Khost.

Kabir, described by Tawhidi as the third-most-important figure in the Taliban, was one of bin Laden's most stalwart champions.

Abdullah, the current foreign minister, who like many Afghans uses one name, said Muttawakil's capture should not lull anyone into thinking his Taliban brethren are through, noting the creation of two new political organizations. "We do not have details of the organizations or their structure," he said, "but on the whole it is not acceptable that the Taliban be able to act either outside or inside Afghanistan in any capacity."

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