The end was closing in on them. Not two months after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban’s Kandahar stronghold was about to fall to its Northern Alliance antagonists.
The Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, commanded his forces in the city to seize “the best opportunity to achieve martyrdom.” But after a week they acquiesced to their new reality. They offered to surrender Kandahar and demobilize, relegating their five-year rule to a few northern and eastern pockets where fighting persisted. “I think we should go home,” announced Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban spokesman, on Dec. 7.
They had a condition. Omar had to remain in Kandahar, albeit under mutually acceptable supervision. Hamid Karzai, head of the new internationally backed Afghan government, was open to it, provided Omar “distance himself completely from terrorism.” Asked by the Associated Press about the terms of Omar’s quasi-captivity, the new leader said those were “details that we still have to work out.”
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