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November 23, 2001
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Pakistani forces face ignominy of being caught in Afghanistan

Rezaul H Laskar in New Delhi

With the fall of the Taleban stronghold of Kunduz becoming imminent, Pakistan faces the embarrassment of its soldiers being caught while conducting clandestine operations on foreign soil for the second time in three years.

Senior Indian intelligence officials said the Pakistan Air Force had flown several missions since Sunday to evacuate top Pakistani military commanders trapped in the northern Afghan town of Kunduz, which has been besieged by the Northern Alliance forces for the past 10 days.

"According to reports based on information from the Northern Alliance, up to 300 Pakistan Army regulars could be holed up in Kunduz," an intelligence official told Indo-Asian News Service. "There are reports that Pakistani officers of the rank of colonel are still in Kunduz."

The reports of Pakistan Army regulars being present in Kunduz comes a little over two years after they were involved in a clandestine operation to occupy strategic heights in the Kargil sector in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Defence Minister George Fernandes had on Sunday accused Pakistan of sending its troops to fight alongside the Taleban even after it had joined the United States-led campaign against Afghanistan.

The Pakistani troops, including officers from Inter-Services Intelligence, were seconded to the Taleban to act as instructors and military advisors.

Pakistani officials based in other towns like Mazar-e-Sharif fell back to Kunduz, the Taleban's last northern stronghold, after Northern Alliance fighters made rapid advances.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has appealed for safe passage for "foreign fighters" trapped In Afghanistan, but the call was rejected by the US administration.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfled was on Friday quoted as saying that he wanted all the defenders of Kunduz, including foreign fighters, to "either be killed or taken prisoner".

Indo-Asian News Service

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External Link:
For further coverage, please visit www.saja.org/roundupsept11.html

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